~the following excerpt is taken from a badly burned
and water logged journal dated January of 1881, the exact date along with the author’s name, are illegible
due to damage~
I have found that very few things in life are actually, in fact, eternal. Everything must come to an end- even stars die. But to me it always seemed that fleeting life is what made those things so tragically beautiful.
A majority of us that were truly immortal, we had some flaw- something in our very nature that would always and will always keep us in check.
I would've thought it'd be my inability to forget, or my stubborn pride, but in hindsight, my downfall has always been love. I honestly believe that if I weren't capable of that particular emotion, then I wouldn't have gone through half the things I have, but then, what would be the point?
A very long time ago, just a short while before man first walked upright in the Garden and a short while after I first opened my eyes, I'd been in love. Now, as Lucifer had created me initially to be his Queen, I can argue with myself day in and day out about whether it had been real or simply something in my nature, but in the end it doesn't matter, because in the end, the fact remained: I had loved Lucifer the same way he seemed to love me. He gave me power when he made me, power that could rival that of most gods of the times and his own, but I'd never considered wielding it against him. I had, on many occasions however, wielded it for him. I didn't know about his hatred for God until Adam and Eve had grown comfortable in the Garden where He walked with them. I remember the day well: the day mankind would fall.
I don't know if-or don't want to believe-it was Lucifer's intention to make everything fall apart the way it did, but it didn't matter. I did as he'd asked and planted the seed of temptation in Eve's mind and so of course God's wrath befell my head as well as his. He took my wings from me that day, and, in a moment of serendipity, God planted in my head the seed of madness. The curse was what sparked the fighting; suddenly my home in Hell, where I'd never wanted for anything before, began to feel more like a gilded cage. And I blamed him for it, though truth be told it was my own fault for blindly following him in his war on God. And of course he defended himself, because to him, this particular end would always justify the means. So we went round and round fighting, and the madness grew healthy in my head until the day I finally left.
I didn't stop to think about who or what I was leaving behind.
I didn't think at all.
I just ran.
I became his biggest mistake.
But you see, Lucifer doesn't make mistakes, and I was no more meant to escape hell than any other tortured soul in it's depths.
So for eternity I ran.
Running for an immortal isn't the same as it would be for a mortal. A mortal must live in constant fear; they live short lives and so must spend time recreating themselves, but it takes years to truly recreate oneself so that even family wouldn't recognize them, years most hunted mortals simply do not have. Immortals on the other hand, they can spend a century or so in one place before someone begins to ask questions, it's part of the beauty of outliving most everyone else. But still, they're recognized or become deified by those with lesser life spans and next thing they know they’re having to pick up and start over again. The First Demon had gone by many names since leaving Hell, many recognized across the globe as parts of history, like Artemis, Diana, or Isis, while others by some miracle remained unknown, but still one name rings out more infamous and more hers than any other: Azrael.
The First Demon was Azrael before she was the Angel of Death, though her wings had been sealed away long before she worked for the horseman and she was, of course, no angel. At best, Azrael mimicked the Archangels of Heaven, but her wings were black as night rather than pure white, and now they were bloody and torn.
She would never understand how she came to be called the Angel of Death, but she could at least understand why she became associated with Death.
At her core, Azrael was a hunter. She cherished the thrill of the chase and the look of fear in the eyes of her prey when they realise who she was.
It was the same look she saw in the eyes of the man who had brought her out to the alley a moment ago. Well, she called him a man, but in reality he was a vampire, a creature of the night who had been out hunting for his latest meal the same night she happened upon this particular nest. The nest was well hidden, housed upstairs from dance club of sorts; Azrael believed the papers called them "dens of iniquity".
Of course, she didn't really care what the place was, she just knew that intoxicated humans turned vampires into easy prey.
“You can't be here, it's impossible, you're supposed to be in London” the vampire's voice shook at her wicked smile, the black in her eyes sucking all light from the alley.
“I am quite capable of moving if I wish, and I don’t take kindly to people telling me I can't do things,” Azrael smiled wider as she punched her hand into his chest and gripped his slippery soul, “I should thank you, you've been my easiest meal yet.” With those words, she tore the soul free before he had a chance to reply, watching as his colour greyed and his body hit the ground. The soul on the other hand, twisted in her hand until it formed a small ball about the size of an apple in her palm and Azrael slid down with her back against the wall. She let her smile slip as she stared at it; her mouth watered, she was hungry, but she'd never been fond of killing people in order to eat. This is why you picked him, Azrael reminded herself as she cast a sideways glance back at the body that would burn at the touch of the sun come morning, he's a killer, you're saving lives. she shook the thoughts away as another came: it's just food.
Azrael took the first bite and straightened up, finishing it by the time she’d reached the end of the alley. In reality, souls were more drug to her than food, but at the end of the day, she'd rather eat and remain in control than not eat and turn her other half loose again, it hadn't ended well for Rome all those years ago and wouldn't for Lancashire or London, either.
She paused in the road beyond the alley to run long pianist's fingers through her raven hair, dislodging the ringlets so that she could tie it up in an untidy knot. She wanted to enjoy the night, but the fresh air here was slowly being replaced with ash and smoke with the industrialisation of the town and there was one of Amédée Bollée’s La Rapide steam cars on its way up the road she was blocking. Azrael stepped back, watching with now silver eyes as the pair of drivers passed by from the opening in the alley leaving rapidly cooling steam in their wake. They glanced toward her and the girl's eyes widened as she found the vampire's body in the dark behind Azrael, but by the time they stopped to investigate, she was long gone.
Azrael had never had much to do in Lancashire in the past, but she’d recently received a letter from a fellow inhuman and very old friend currently living in Salford, so on the 13th, she’d stepped off the early morning train with dozens of families moving to the area for the cotton and silk among other things. Only she was alone, having left Keep at home so as to not draw too much attention to herself as much as to protect the house. Her initial impression was that the growing industrial town was no place for a Puck, but then this one never had been very conventional. Azrael spent all of that day looking for the small house mentioned in the letter, but there were hundreds of small houses in the area all looking essentially the same. As the sun marked the afternoon, she turned her sights on finding the local census office; Azrael didn’t have high hopes for finding it any time soon, the people here avoided her just as much as the people in London had, as if their instincts were telling them she was dangerous.
Not that that wasn’t an accurate evaluation.
Especially because she hadn’t eaten in awhile and her hunger was starting to wear on her.
She managed to locate the census office just as the sun began to set, but she was going to wait for the dark night to find the record she needed. She had time to kill and, from what she’d managed to piece together while wandering the town and catching snippets of conversations, there were vampires in the area and, most of the time, they made for easy prey.
And thus, she was standing in the alley entrance watching the La Rapide move down the road at its top speed of 62 km/h while it filled the narrow space with clouds of steam.
She used the clouds as cover to scale the nearby wall with a practiced ease, using the rooftops to return to the census office unhindered now that night had fallen.
Azrael appeared on the doorstep of the address listed in the census for Miss Helen Raycroft and knocked. She expected the door to be opened by the young woman mentioned in the Puck’s letter, but instead there was silence for quite a long while. She reached out to touch the door handle, about to let herself in when it opened partly with only that touch; it hadn’t been locked, it hadn’t even been fully closed. Something was off and Azrael’s gaze narrowed as she slipped inside, slipping a knife down from its sheath on her wrist. The floors creaked softly under her feet, protesting even the slightest movement as she crept further into the house. There was no one there, or at least not in any of the rooms she’d searched. She stood in the bedroom now, looking through the chest of drawers to find them empty, like someone had packed all their things in a hurry.
“What are you doing in my house?” Azrael turned and raised an eyebrow at the man- no, the Puck in the doorway.
“I came to meet an old friend. I was told he’d be here with his family, but I must have the wrong house.” With that lie she started to leave, but the Puck stopped her.
“Azrael?” She practically growled at the name, but at least he’d recognised her, “Robin Goodfellow.” She studied him a moment.
“Well, you’re awfully forthcoming with that information now, aren’t you.” He looked surprised, as if he wasn’t used to people taking those words at face value. “Where’s the rest of the household?” Azrael voiced her confusion, gesturing to the empty drawers and Robin frowned, studying the floor while he took a shaky breath.
“They’re gone, my sweet Helen and little Carrie.” She cocked her head to one side in her confusion.
“What do you mean?” He gestured around the room.
Helen, I always thought she was happy with me, but night before last, she packed everything she could and left, taking Carrie with her.” Azrael frowned, she wasn’t entirely sure what to say or do in this situation; her people skills were a bit rusty.
“I’m sorry,” she paused, thinking a moment, “I can bring them back if you like?” Robin shook his head.
“No, they wanted to leave.” She nodded slightly.
“Then I can keep an eye on them, make sure they don’t become victims of abuse… or worse.” He gave a weak smile.
“Thank you.” Again she nodded slightly before making her way out of the house and down the road.
Azrael was making her way down the road back to the train station when her instincts warned her something was wrong. She turned sharply, following the feeling until she came in view of a military barracks, close enough to be knocked down by the concussion and shrapnel from the detonation of Lord knew how much dynamite. She groaned as she sat up slowly, blinking rapidly as the world spun back into place and her injuries, including a few broken ribs and a punctured lung, quickly mended themselves. She shoved the pile of shrapnel off of herself and climbed somewhat shakily to her feet, taking in the destruction and the smell of blood…
Someone had died in the blast, just one person, but Azrael was pretty sure it was a young boy. She wasn’t sure if the intention had been to injure and kill or simply to scare someone, but either way she was not at all happy about the casualty. Of course, there was not much she could do about it at this point and with no idea where to start looking, she couldn’t exactly go about finding them. Not that seeking revenge would have truly helped anyone. Instead, she dipped into one of the pockets in her trousers to retrieve five crowns before approaching the injured woman who had been pulled from the rubble. Azrael caught a glimpse of the seven year old boy killed in the attack as she passed to crouch in front of the woman.
“Ma’am,” she took the woman’s hand and pressed the coins into it, “for the funeral,” she gave the woman a sad, but reassuring smile, “and to have a doctor look you over.” The woman stared at her, taking in Azrael’s clothes now torn, bloody, and covered in dust.
“Who are you?” Her voice shook when she finally spoke, but Azrael only smiled.
“No one important.” She then rose to her feet, whispered an ancient prayer in a forgotten language, and pressed her lips to the top of the woman’s head before turning to leave without looking back. The woman sat clutching the coins in her shaking hands and staring after her until she seemed to vanish down the street.
Azrael was unable to ride in one of the passenger cars on the train home due to her current dress, but, as always, she simply found another way to board the train. For a human, trying to board a moving train could easily result in anything from broken bones to being cut in half by the wheels, and so, is a very, very bad idea… for a human. Of course, she never really had been human, so that along with being able to run far faster than any being she’d come across so far gave her a huge advantage over a train hopping human. Azrael waited well out of sight of the station, waiting for the train to get further down the track and up to higher speeds so that it was harder for anyone who happened to see her to try to pull her off. When the train had half passed her, she took off after it, taking a leisurely pace to keep up with it while she studied the cars looking for an opening. When she found one, she changed her pace to match it, running alongside it before finally jumping up to grab the edge of the open doorway, planting one of her feet on the side to give herself a more solid hold on it before she climbed inside with a practiced ease. The car was empty, it seemed they had cleared out the cars at the station; she couldn’t complain, she liked the peace and closed her eyes, smiling softly as she leaned back against the wall of the car and listened to the rhythmic clicking of the wheels.3: 16th of January, 1881 - Writer’s Block and Someone to Blame a Bombing On
Azrael’s home was cold as she stepped inside, but that was expected considering she herself didn't generate body heat and Keep alone was not enough to combat it. The large hellhound drifted out of the shadows inside like a ghost and pressed his head into her stomach in his silent hello. Azrael smiled as she stroked his head and tried to shake off the loneliness that usually overtook her when she got home. I am not alone, she told herself; her half sister, someone she'd thought she lost when she escaped Hell, lived just on the other side of town and Keep, along with any other of the pack of hounds she'd created all those years ago, would always be at her side. I need only call and I'll never be by myself.
And yet I still feel so alone.
Azrael leaned down to wrap her arms around Keep's midsection, ignoring the fact the stubs of his sealed horns were now digging into her stomach.
It wasn't all that long ago that she'd moved back here to England and her home in the woods, though overgrown and widely considered haunted by the locals, still stood after all that time away. She let go of Keep, running her fingers along the old stone wall as she walked towards the kitchen, about to make herself a cup of tea before she sat down to collect the events of the day on the next blank page of her most recent journal. A few minutes later, Azrael sat in her study staring at the page, trying to think of anything even remotely interesting that happened that day and she was coming up blank. She tossed her ink pen aside, apparently hard enough to stick it headfirst into the wood paneling of her library, and picked a small case up from on top of her piano. Music had always helped her collect her thoughts and as she played her violin, Azrael felt the tension easing from her nerves and her thoughts become less clouded.
But of course her tranquility couldn’t last and the violin made an unhappy sound as someone knocked on the door and Azrael was wrenched back into reality.
Her gaze narrowed as she approached the door, not even bothering to set her violin aside to answer it. The man she found on her doorstep wore the uniform of the Metropolitan Police Service and the sight of it made her silver gaze turn to icy steel.
“What can I do for you?” She refrained from using any slang for the time being.
“Miss Arron Masey?” Azrael-now Arron-nodded slightly, that was after all the name she was currently using. “I’m here to escort you to the station in relation to your involvement with the Lancashire bombing on the 14th of this month.” Arron raised an eyebrow at him.
“My involvement?” Yes, she had been there, but it was to deal with a Puck who was particularly upset, and rightfully so considering his Mistress had absconded with their newborn baby. “I’m not entirely sure how I can assist you.” The officer seemed to visibly gather up his courage before speaking again.
“We have witnesses that placed you at the barracks before they blew.” Arron breathed a heavy sigh.
“Fine, but I was honestly just passing by the place on my way to the train station.” The officer seemed to disregard her words entirely as soon as she agreed to go with him, but she doubted he would’ve taken her word for it even if he had heard.
“Follow me, please.” With those last words, the officer began walking down the trail back into town, leaving her to follow. For a moment, she stood there in the doorway listening to the sound of his footsteps in the dirt while she debated with the temptation to simply return inside. Finally, she breathed another sigh and set her violin aside before shrugging on her coat and following after the officer’s fading footsteps.
4: 17th of January, 1881 - A Cold Case and A Rainy Day
Arron stood against the wall of the station’s waiting area doing exactly that. In the meantime she’d managed to lift a case file from another passing officer and stood reading through it, particularly interested in the manner of death; it was familiar in a vaguely nostalgic sort of way.
“You can’t be reading that!” The officer returned, quite red in the face at the sight of her holding the case file, “Where did you get it?!” He snatched it from her loose grip, causing the paper to slice shallow cuts in her hands, though she barely noticed them and they healed in a matter of seconds.
“It was on the desk,” Arron lied flawlessly when she answered his question, very calm compared to his outraged state.
“You cannot tell anyone about what you read.” He muttered the words, his voice gruff as she leaned back against the wall again.
“I shall try my very best,” she spoke, her voice mocking and thick with sarcasm; honestly, who did he think she would tell? “You wanted to ask me about the 14th?” She changed the subject, too tired to be at the station longer than she had to be; although it wasn’t just the station, she was simply tired. She’d lived for far too long in her opinion.
“Yes,” the officer regained his composure enough, at least, to turn to retrieve a notepad from the top of his desk. “Could you relay everything you did while in Lancashire?” She raised an eyebrow at him before shrugging.
“Well, I arrived early the morning of the 13th and went to meet an… acquaintance of mine in the area, his mistress had recently given birth to a baby girl and a few days prior to my trip, she’d absconded with the baby.” The officer looked up at Arron like he wasn’t sure whether to believe any part of her story despite her being completely honest for once in her very long life.
“Why did he contact you and not the local station?” She shrugged.
“I didn’t ask.” She knew technically she’d received the letter before Robin knew Helen was going to leave with the baby, but she wasn’t going to share that information with the man in front of her, she knew full well that it wouldn’t help anyone.
“And does this acquaintance of yours have a name?” The officer returned his gaze to the notepad in his hands.
“Robin Goodfellow.” His gaze snapped back to Arron at her blunt statement. Eventually he seemed to decide she was being serious, but it had to be just some cruel joke on the part of the fellow’s parents. He wrote the name quickly on the paper before looking up again with his next question.
“And why were you at the military barracks the day of the bombing?”
“I already told you, I was on my way home, I had to pass the place to get to the station.” She spoke the truth, though she left out the bit about her hopping the train rather than ride as a passenger. “Look, I live in the woods outside of town for a reason, I don’t want anything to do with any revolutions or movements or wars. I’m tired; I just want to be left alone.” The officer stared at her, as if he could feel just how honest that last part was, but he took long enough to respond that Arron just sighed and shook her head. “Look, unless you need anything else-”
“No, you can’t leave yet,” he moved to block her exit, but she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and lifted him so that his toes barely brushed against the floor. She wore a cold snarl when she spoke again, her voice low.
“I don’t give a damn if you’re a Blue Devil or a member of bloody parliament, I am going home, so you can just sod off.” He nodded frantically, the instinctual fear Arron had earlier watched him shove aside returning with a vengeance. She let go off him, letting him fall back to the floor before slipping out the door and back down the street towards home.
It had started raining while she was inside the station and now Arron paused in the middle of the street to look up at night sky and take a deep breath, consciously relaxing as if allowing the rain wash her troubles away. She felt rather than saw the figure standing on the side of the road, watching. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, studying him a moment; he seemed to recognise her, and she recognised him, but she couldn’t place him and he seemed to shrug off his recognition as being impossible before turning away. The figure vanished from right before Arron’s eyes, like he’d simply faded into the background.
She shook herself free of the thought and continued on her way home, her thoughts returning to the file she’d read.
The method had been familiar because she’d seen it before; it belonged to a powerful witch Arron had begun referring to as “The Wicked Witch of Merseyside” due to the fact the witch had last been operating in Merseyside before she had lost track of her.
She had, of course, expected the witch to return, but the timing was a bit inopportune.
She had quickly scanned each page of the file as soon as she’d gotten her hands on it, storing the information away in her memory just in case she decided to kill time with it on a “rainy day”, but when she’d seen the victims, she knew exactly who it was.
Once home, Arron returned her violin to its case on her piano and began walking along a shelf in her miniature library, reading the worn leather spines and the year branded into them, looking for the one for 1823. She smiled softly when she found it, pulling it quickly from the shelf and turning to the exact page she was looking for. Scanning what she’d recorded the year before about the witch didn’t actually give her any new information, but it did draw the memory of the day back to her recall in an organized manner.
“Este Demetriou,” Arron whispered the name as she ran her fingers across the dried ink on the page, “what brings you to London I wonder.” Whatever it was wouldn’t really matter in the end, because she didn't plan on losing her this time. The case files didn't have exact locations for where any of Este’s victims were killed, but as long as she knew the general area, Arron would be able to find them; Daniel had always left behind a distinct scent when he came to collect souls even if he wasn't there physically.
Even so, the scent wouldn't fade any time soon and it was getting awfully late to be out investigating, especially when Arron drew enough attention to herself as it was. Besides, she was tired, not a physical or mental tired that could be cured with a good night's rest, not that she'd ever managed one of those, but the kind of tired that resides deep down in her soul because it bore too much and she would never truly be able to forget any of it. Still she tried to cure herself with sleep each night, so she climbed up the stairs of her home and down the second story hall to her small bedroom where she collapsed onto her bed without even changing out of her ragged clothes of two or three days now.
Just like every other morning, Arron woke before the sun and was just stepping out of her open top oriental bath in order to wear clean clothes as the sun was starting to peek over the horizon. She let her damp wavy hair fall loose around her shoulders as she stepped out on the balcony off her bedroom, leaning on the rails to watch the sunrise. This, to her, was one of the few perks of her long life, she had the time to find untouched places in the world and save them, if she could, for as long as possible.
When the sun was too high to paint the sky anymore, Arron turned her sights on the city, a dark light filling her gaze as a wicked smile tucked at the corner of her mouth at the prospect of finding the elusive Wicked Witch of Merseyside. Briefly, she wondered, while she buckled her belt around her waist and tied the bottom of her holster down around her thigh, if Este would know she was coming for her in the same way people seem to sense Daniel. Death and Azrael were the only two Soul Eaters ever created, but there were quite a few differences between them. Still Arron hoped Este would know, if only to torment her for a while. She sheathed her hunting knife in her belt at the small of her back and holstered her flintlock before she shrugged on her long coat, pausing only to check that her Kindjal was still safely in its sheath within the folds before she stepped out her door with a sense of purpose she hadn't felt in a long while.
It was in the wee hours of the morning that Arron found herself in Middlesex swearing quietly in Dimoori Sheol after rounding a corner and losing sight of Este. She listened for a few minutes, trying to relocate her prey, but there was only silence. A chill crept up Arron’s spine causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end as her “other half” began to whisper that something was very wrong and she turned slowly, searching the shadows for anything that seemed off. She felt rather than heard the presence that appeared on her left and she turned slowly to face the newcomer with an expression reflecting the boredom she felt at her prey cutting the hunt short.
“Hello again, Azrael,” Este smiled, her purple and green feline eyes glittering in the dark, “you must be getting rusty-” She trailed off as Arron allowed a lazy smile to flit across her lips and let slip a quiet laugh.
“I have not gotten rusty,” a wicked gleam lit up her silver eyes, “I am simply testing a theory,” she cocked her head to one side, “you proved me right.” Este looked confused for the briefest moment before her arrogant smile returned.
“You expect me to believe you planned this,” again she trailed off as Arron’s smile returned.
“I don’t plan anything, it’s a simple matter of knowing you, probably better than you know yourself.” Este started to argue her outrage, but she didn’t even get a word in before Arron continued, “Your pride is your weakness,” she smirked, “you can’t turn away from a challenge; you’re territorial.” Her smile turned dark, an untouchable hunger filling her gaze as her pupils bled like overflowing inkwells to stain the rest of her eyes black, “So am I.” The temperature dropped in the street and their breath fogged the air as the silence stretching between them like a living thing for a moment of eternity. Then Este let out a battle cry in ancient Greek as she called ice forth from the cool night, drawing symbols in the air to send spikes shooting toward the place Arron had stood only a second before. Arron drew the russian kinjal from within her coat with lightning speed and now she charged Este while the witch scrambled to draw a barrier. The sharp blade sang as it bounced off the ward and Arron let out a low growl. Este cast another spell from the safety of her barrier, but Arron dodged swiftly to the side. They continued like this until there were enough shattered ice projectiles littering the street to look as though it had snowed and Arron was growing tired of the game they played. “Enough!” At her command the world seemed, for a moment, to stand still; she was done playing. Este took an unconscious step back as Arron advanced on her, her blade lowered, but still singing its call for blood. Quickly she gestured for more icy projectiles, but Arron didn’t so much as flinch as the first two whistled past and the third… Este stared, stumbling back, her feline eyes wide. A mad smile slowly worked its way across Arron’s face as the ice melted in her hand.
“Please no,” Este’s voice shook as Arron- no, Azrael pressed a hand to the protective ward. Frost spread across the invisible surface, radiating out from her palm until a black fire flickered to life in the center and raced across the surface chasing the frost. Again Este stumbled back, falling over her own feet and landing in a mess of skirts on the cobblestone. She reached up to draw one last desperate spell in the air, but Azrael grabbed her wrist midline and held it in place with an unyielding grip as she brought the kinjal down on Este’s shoulder in one fluid motion, severing the limb with the ease of a hot knife through butter. Her expression didn’t change from her icy mask as she tossed the limb aside and Este stared in shock, like she couldn’t quite grasp what had happened. It didn’t much matter to Azrael, she was about to finish the job when a pair of hunters appeared down the street.
“Hey!” The woman shouted as she and her brother ran towards a rather confused Este and Azrael. Este recovered just a fraction of a second quicker, pulling the small thread scissors from her belt and stabbing the other woman in the side of the knee before fleeing for her life. Arron snapped back to herself at the sudden pain, her knees giving out while she swore colourfully in just about every language she knew.
“Don’t move,” the young man spoke, a silver tipped bolt loaded into the crossbow he had aimed at Arron’s head when she looked up. For a moment, she simply studied the duo in silence from where she knelt in the false snow.
Then she started to laugh.
The woman glanced at her brother, worry written plain across her face, but he didn’t seem too concerned.
“Go ahead, shoot me,” Arron grinned wider, her silver eyes glittering in the gaslight as her voice turned sinister, “I’ll just eat you both and go back to my hunt.”
“Nathaniel, we should try exorcism first,” the young woman caught of her brother’s arm and, after a moment, he lowered the crossbow. She lifted the Bible in her hands and began to read, but Arron only shook her head.
“Exputaegis,” at her command, the clouds raced across the sky, bringing in a storm as the wind whipped the fallen shards of ice up into the air in a blinding blizzard. By the time it began to snow in earnest, Arron had already slipped away.
A fire roared in the fireplace in the first floor of Arron’s library and she sat beside it cleaning the last of the blood from her kinjal while trying to place where she’d seen the two hunters before. She breathed a heavy sigh before sheathing her blade and moving to climb the spiral staircase to her desk; loathe as she was to recording her failure, it needed to be done.
The docks were always bustling with activity and today was no different as Arron wove through the throngs of people with a well practiced ease. She slipped inside a small pub and inn, an easy smile spreading across her lips when she found her favorite sailor sitting at a corner table with a couple of his crewmates and some dice.
“Arron!” Adam Walker grinned when he saw her approach, already halfway through what Arron guessed was his third drink by the looks of him, “come to shake the elbow with us, eh?” She laughed lightly at his drunken cheer as she pulled up a chair beside the young man. He was tan, even for a half Navajo, and the scent of the ocean still clung to him.
“You just got back from the States, right?” The other two sailors looked up in surprise, tipping her off they hadn’t even been here long enough for word to spread, but Adam was used to her tendency towards seeing things others missed. After all, most people in Europe couldn’t tell one Indian from the next, let alone spot a yee naaldooshii, a skinwalker, just by looking at him.
“Nothing too interesting going on over there I’m ‘fraid,” Arron breathed a sigh of disappointment before Adam pulled a well used deck of cards from inside his tiger skin vest and she perked up, “Poker?”
“You going to cheat?”
“You joking? How else we supposed to have a chance at beating you?” The group laughed and Arron managed to shove Este’s escape to the back of her mind… with the help of a good strong drink to numb the dull ache in her healing knee.
6: 19th of January, 1881 - A Dress and The Devil in London
A letter appeared at Arron’s front step early that morning, not by courier as none ever came to the house, but whoever had delivered it had vanished by the time she opened the door. She lifted the parchment and returned inside, turning it over and over in her hands as she studied it. Quickly Arron broke the seal and unfolded the parchment. The parchment itself was blank, but contained within was a piece of cardstock with gorgeous calligraphy detailing the time and location of a party hosted by one of the local lords. At first glance, Arron was almost certain the invitation had simply been blown onto her step by the wind, but it was addressed to her and when her eyes fell on the name of the host, curiosity got the better of her.
Lucius Avel was new to England, Arron knew because she made a point of documenting everyone in the nation and even without her flawless memory, a name like that would’ve stuck.
Avel wasn’t an entirely common surname and it, paired with a name so close to Lucifer? Normally Arron would be setting out again for somewhere new, but she liked London and with her only family living so nearby, she was hesitant to just leave again, instinct be damned.
And so, Arron found herself wearing a dress and standing on the front step of Lord Avel’s estate, invitation in hand and large Hellhound at her side. She knocked lightly on the door, a false confidence in her movements that hid the sense of unease she’d begun to feel walking up to the door. It was an instinctual thing, this unease, and try as she might to push it to the back of her mind, it simply wouldn’t stay there. The handle turned and Arron almost laughed in relief as the door opened to reveal a man in a formal uniform rather than an empty hall. With a silent gesture, she sent Keep away from her side, the Hound disappearing into the darkness around the estate. The butler said nothing; Keep had moved quickly enough to remain unseen despite his size.
“Good evening, Miss,” he spoke with a professional, carefully measured tone, holding his hand out for the invitation she offered him. “Ah, Miss Masey,” she nodded slightly as he scanned the card, “please follow me.” Arron stepped over the threshold, following the butler through the main house and towards the lawn behind it. She heard the music first, the beautiful classical instruments drawing a smile across her lips and lulling her into a sense of calm. A few of the guests who loitered near the door turned to see who the butler was escorting in and their eyes widened at the sight of Arron. She paused at the door, surveying the group as more and more eyes turned to her, whispers of “witch” and “monster” drifting to her ears and slowly turning her colder and colder. Then one whispered word reached her and she broke into a broad smile, an almost wicked gleam to her silver eyes, and that word was “demon”. Arron lifted her chin slightly, about to make some smart remark when, perhaps rather luckily, a familiar voice reached her ears.
“Arron!” She started to turn, but before she could move, Adam had appeared beside her, throwing an arm around her shoulders with a drunken grin plastered on his face, “I’m so glad to see you, this crowd is entirely too prudish for my taste,” he spoke mockingly as he steered her towards the bar he had no doubt just come from, “You look like you’re about to snap.” He spoke again, but thankfully he’d had the decency to lower his voice first. Arron took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.
“I need a drink and I’ll be fine,” she muttered the words before flagging down the bartender and ordering the strongest drink they had. Adam, of course, stood by and watched as she downed it in one go, pride in his gaze.
“Come my friend, have another, I’ll join you!” He spoke as he ordered another round and she raised an eyebrow at him.
“You and I both know I will drink you under the table if you try to keep up.” He waved off her concern and lifted his glass to start chugging so Arron gave him a defeated shrug and turned to her own drink.
About half an hour later, Adam was barely conscious where he sat collapsed in a chair with his head down on the table between them. By now Arron was fairly certain he’d had enough that he wouldn’t be able to lay down without holding onto something. She shook her head as he grumbled something barely coherent about ordering another round, about to ask for a glass of water when she bumped into a very familiar face.
“Good evening, Miss,” the man trailed off as if asking her name, though the look in his red gold eyes told Arron he had recognized her as well.
“Arron Masey,” she spoke with a charming smile, putting on a show for the other guests despite her instinctual urge to flee, “You must be Lucius Avel.” A few of the guests let out quiet gasps at the way she addressed their host; he was a Lord of course, a man of nobility and Arron was worse than nothing, she was a Catholic and nonconformist woman in a man’s world, a monster. However, their shock only caused a smile to tug at her lips; what they didn’t know was the pair before them had been married since long before humans walked upright. Arron watched him bite down on his temper, her smile bordering on a malicious grin.
“This sort of behaviour is why the locals think you a monster, Miss Masey.” She laughed aloud at that.
“I promise you, that is not why they call me a monster.” As if summoned by the mention of monsters, the two hunters that had allowed Este to get away appeared behind Lord Avel’s shoulder. “And with that, my dear Luci, I really must be leaving.” Arron turned her back on the outraged Lucifer’s gaze and lifted Adam to his feet, allowing him to lean heavily on her as she coaxed him across the yard and back to the estate.
“Where are we going?” Adam spoke sleepily, the confusion plain across his face.
“I’m not sure, but we can’t stay here.”
“Hunters showed up,” Adam started to laugh and argue that Arron needn’t worry about hunters and he’d be fine if she was there, but she didn’t give him the chance, “and Lucifer.” He sobered up some at that, his brain suddenly focused on ways to escape London. “I should’ve left,” Arron broke the silence, “I can’t afford to be sentimental,” her voice was soft as they walked along the city streets. Keep seemed to melt from the shadows nearby and relief flooded Arron as she ran the fingers of her free hand through the Hellhound’s dark coat. Adam seemed to start dozing off leaned against her and she breathed a heavy sigh before lifting him over her shoulder and making her way home.
Normally if Arron decided to visit her half sister, she’d take the time to walk across town, but this was an emergency and she didn’t relish the idea of leaving Adam unsupervised in her home longer than she had to. Thus, she closed her eyes after laying Adam on her sofa and focused on the interior of Ena’s house. She took one step forward and to any onlookers, appeared to teleport from her own living room into her sister’s, which wasn’t all that far from the truth. Her sudden appearance was greeted by yelps of surprise and when Arron opened her eyes to survey the room she found herself with an audience of three of the five residents of the house.
“Jesus Arron, you scared us half to death.” Warin spoke knowing full well Daniel wouldn’t appreciate the phrase, a mischievous light in his fiery eyes despite the fact he really was a shade or two paler. Daniel shot him an icy glare before addressing Arron with an air of seriousness the others hadn’t shown.
“What brings you here in such a hurry? I’ve never seen you shadow walk outside of long distance travel and fights.” She faltered now that she was there, worry flashing across her gaze as she searched for any sign of Ena.
“There’s a bit of an emergency…” She trailed off as she turned back to Daniel, “Where’s Ena?” Daniel frowned at her words, but didn’t press.
“She’s out hunting, should be back any-” The sound of the door opening cut him off as a young woman similar in appearance to Arron stepped through, her light nightgown now splattered in blood.
“Oh, Arron,” Ena voiced her surprise, her mismatched blue and red eyes widening slightly, “what are you doing here so late at night?” Arron took a deep breath, seeing no point in beating around the bush.
“Lucifer is in London.” The room went silent and cold at Arron’s words, “He finally caught up,” her voice was quieter this time and after a moment she seemed to physically break, dropping her head into her hands. Ena began to approach her sister, heartbreak in her eyes, but Daniel caught her by the arm and pulled her gently away; he’d seen the room flicker. That was the problem with Arron, she’d bottle up her pain until she’d crack and when Arron cracked, bad things happened. The darkness in the room was growing, like a living thing feeding off what little light the lamps in the room could provide, and along with it an icy film began to spread from where she stood.
“Arron?” Ena spoke gently as the darkness behind Arron began again to flicker into an image of Hell. “Arron,” fear began to fill Ena’s voice at the sight of Hell’s empty throne room and Daniel and the other two Horsemen in the room placed themselves protectively between Ena and their former home. It was the fear in Ena’s voice, the wariness in the eyes of those Arron considered family that brought her back from the edge.
She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as she ran long pianist’s fingers through her raven hair.
“Arron.” Daniel’s voice, always calm and soothing, broke the silence and Arron’s silver eyes snapped to him as the room returned to normal, all traces of Hell vanishing with the dark and the cold. “You should pack,” she opened her mouth to argue, but there was still fear in Ena’s eyes and after Arron had spent so many years protecting her, she couldn’t bring herself to argue when she saw it.
“I need to go,” she spoke quietly, unable to voice what was really going on in her head. I’m afraid… I don’t want to be alone again… and underneath it all, I’m so tired of running… Ena stepped forward, brushing past Daniel and reaching out to her sister, but Arron stepped back into the darkness, an immense pain in her eyes as the shadows swallowed her whole and transported her back to the home she’d soon have to abandon.
Arron stood in her kitchen about to make tea when she heard Adam wake up in the other room. He shuffled in behind her just as she snapped her fingers in front of the stove, starting a fire inside as frost crept across the front and the wall behind it.
“How did I get here?” He voiced his confusion, wincing when the kettle began to whistle.
“I carried you.” She spoke softly as she poured the hot water over the tea leaves into a cup for him, ignoring the look of indignance he wore. “Drink, it’ll help with the hangover.” Adam looked about to argue that he was fine, but one raised eyebrow from Arron and he thought better of it.
“Why are you still here?” He broke the silence that fell and she looked up in surprise. “I figured out your game, you’ve disappeared from so many places- so many cultures so many times you’ve got it down to a science. It can’t take more than a day for you to vanish completely.” He paused briefly, “So why are you still here?” She opened her mouth to reply, but he didn’t give her the chance, “And don’t tell me it’s because I was passed out on your couch.” Arron closed her mouth again in silence, thinking over his question for a moment before she finally answered.
“I like London, and… to be honest, I’m tired of running,” she flashed a smile to match her words. “I’m old, I’ve been around for far too long and, come what may, Lucifer will never get me to return with him to Hell, but he won’t take no for an answer. It’ll be a stalemate between two immortals,” she spoke quietly, like she was trying to convince herself as much as she was him because when it came down to it, she didn’t know why she’d stayed.
Maybe she’d felt she had to.
Or maybe, for the first time in a very long time, she’d legitimately wanted to stay…
To have somewhere permanent to call home.
Adam regarded her as if he was trying to decide what to think of her reply, but in the end, it didn’t really matter and he wasn’t going to push for a straight answer when she so clearly had none. After silence had fallen again, he finished his tea and stood from his seat.
“Thank you for letting me stay for the night, but I should really be going. I’m supposed to be helping load the next shipment for America.” Arron nodded slightly rather than speak as she watched him go; this was familiar to them, they’d done the same many times before and goodbye never needed to be spoken. Truth be told, Arron knew full well that Adam’s next boat didn’t ship out for another month and he didn’t really have anything he needed to do, but he was still struggling with the decision to run now that he knew hunters and Lucifer had moved into the city and there was no doubt a storm coming that not many would survive to see the end of; she couldn’t really blame him for wanting to flee her presence. Arron sighed into her tea, reading the leaves while she sat in silence. The leaves, they spoke to her, told her things she could’ve told them, things like a coming battle in which she would lose a great deal if she stayed her course; things like an intense guilt and pain that would be etched into her soul with the loneliness that was already there.
She finished off her cup and stood.
Late evening, Arron sat at her piano. She’d already filled out today’s entry in her journal, taking meticulous notes on everything that had happened and now she sat trying to will away her apathy at Lucifer’s appearance in London. She played beautifully, the music pouring through her fingertips from her soul to the keys, the instrument itself loud enough that if the wind was right, the melodies would be carried down to the streets of London nearest her home. This was part of what had started the rumours of her home being haunted, a laughable idea in her opinion considering the only ghosts haunting her home were the ones inside her head; ghosts of the people she’d loved and lost. On this particular day, the melody that drifted down was just loud enough to reach the ears of Nathaniel and Jennifer Rivers as they drove down the street in their La Rapide steamcar. Jennifer heard the sound and grabbed her brother’s arm, forcing him to pull over the vehicle to listen more closely. They’d heard the rumours of the witch that lived in the little haunted castle up the hill, but neither of them had put any stock in the claims until now. They didn’t know much about Arron, they’d really only seen her twice and it was only for brief moments, but they had seen her perform magic of sorts when she’d caused one of the largest blizzards of the century to escape them.
“Maybe we should look into that castle after all,” Nathaniel spoke in an indifferent tone to his sister after they’d listened to the faint melody a moment longer. Jennifer, who wasn’t keen on the idea of hunting to begin with, agreed quietly as though she was hesitant to risk finding out the stories about the woman up the hill were true.
Of course, in regard to Arron, the rumours rarely did her justice.
The two hunters started their steamcar up again and turned toward the small dirt trail to the castle. When they reached the entrance of the trail, they turned the vehicle off and climbed out, the old track too narrow to continue any other way than on foot. Arron heard the crunch of snow under foot outside and paused to listen, fingers still poised over the keys of the piano. The crunching continued, quiet enough to be lost if it weren’t for the total silence. It was two people approaching the door based on the rhythm of the footsteps, but likely no one too important for her to head them off. Arron began again to play her piano, drowning out the sound of footsteps until they ended on her front step with a knock on the door. She breathed a heavy sigh, taking her time to respond to the summons. Keep stood in the entryway, hackles raised and teeth bared in a silent snarl. Arron paused briefly to run her fingers through the wiry fur at the scruff of his neck, careful not to cut herself on the sharp spines. Then she opened the door, her hand remaining on Keep’s scruff as much to reassure herself as him. Her silver eyes narrowed into an annoyed glare, flashing like steel when she saw the two hunters on her step. Nathaniel and Jennifer stared in shock, neither of them really sure what they’d expected when they knocked on the door, but it wasn’t this. Jennifer reached for the knife on her hip and Nathaniel for the crossbow on his back, but Arron moved faster than either of them could hope to match. She struck both of them in the chest with the heel of her palm hard enough to lift them backwards off the ground a few yards. Before they could even catch their breath, Arron had Nathaniel pinned, his sister’s blade against his throat so that if he so much as swallowed, it’d open a small cut. Jennifer moved to help her brother, but when Keep seemed to melt from the shadows blocking her path, she let out a frightened shriek.
“It’d be best if the pair of you left me alone.” Arron’s voice was low and cold, “I don’t have the patience to play with a pair of children.” Outrage wrote itself across Jennifer’s face at Arron’s words, but Keep wouldn’t let her near his alpha.
“We’re not here to ‘play’,” and so she settled for shouting, “we’re here because we’ve seen you with a dead body and about to kill an innocent woman!” For a moment, Arron was silent, but then she began to laugh, the light, almost musical sound dumbfounding the siblings.
“That dead body was a Vampire and as for the ‘innocent’ woman,” she laughed again, “there’s a reason I call her the Wicked Witch of Merseyside.” Jennifer’s eyes widened slightly at the mention of Merseyside; they both knew the stories, they’d been raised on stories like that of the rash of ‘unexplained’ deaths in Merseyside that could only have been the work of a powerful witch.
“B-But you’re still- how could you-that was decades ago… and no one moves that fast.” Arron raised an eyebrow at Jennifer’s protests, glancing back at the doorstep she’d stood on only seconds ago before she shook her head slightly and stood, the stolen blade hanging loosely from her fingers while her posture drove home the fact they posed no real threat to her.
“I’m older than I look,” she shrugged, “so is Este.” It was the understatement of the millennia, but Arron didn’t feel the need to go into detail.
“You’re an unwelcome pest,” she scoffed at Nathaniel’s comment as he climbed to his feet, his gaze wary, “just waiting to be exorcised.”
“Lesser demons, the ones you’ve probably met in the past, they’re the pests,” her voice was filled with a mix of disgust and hatred, “ too weak to hold their own forms outside of Hell, they’re nothing more than parasites.”
“How are you any better?” Arron flashed him an almost cruel smile.
“I’m not,” she cocked her head to one side as if studying an insect, “trust me when I tell you I am far worse than a parasite.” Her smile turned dark with an insatiable hunger, “You are the ones not welcome and I suggest you leave before I really do decide to eat you.” Nathaniel seemed to honestly consider.
“You wouldn’t.” Jennifer spoke with as much conviction as she could muster, which wasn’t much, and Arron hummed in response as though agreeing with her.
“No, you’re right,” she smiled again, her silver eyes glittering with a mad light, “I’ll probably just feed you to my Hounds.” As if to drive her point home, Keep bared his teeth in a silent snarl while the cold eyes of the rest of her pack appeared in the shadowy woods around them, summoned by her words. Jennifer started to back toward the trail, her brother shifting slowly in the same direction while Arron watched. “I suggest you run.” At her words, the pair bolted back down the path to their steamcar, Arron’s Hounds close on their heels until they reached the edge of the woods. There they paced among the trees watching hungrily as the hunters scrambled to start their steamcar and run. “They’re His, aren’t they?”
"And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer."
Few of us believed that John could actually be right when he wrote Revelations; most of us thought he was nothing more than another raving lunatic. Of course, very few of us in Hell actually believed in Heaven, or Angels, the decent ones at least, or even God. Then I cut ties with Lucifer, a task much easier said than done, and took up working for one of the four horsemen. I'm not going to pretend to understand why humans relate Daniel to Angels to the point of obsession, but somehow while working for him I ended up with the title 'Angel of Death'. I don't have wings, at least not anymore. I lasted three years with Danny, eating only the bare minimum when it came to souls, but my other half, Delante, gets uncontrollable when she's hungry, and after three years, she was starving. I’d tried starving her before, but it hadn’t ended well. So with memories of fire and ash in mind and for the sake of becoming anonymous, I left my Hell Hounds in a shadow world between the human and the supernatural and left Danny with the key; who better to trust with something like that than an old friend and an immortal Horseman with a diet similar to my own? It was rough at first, but I got used to hunting without them, and in the long run, it was a good decision. There was an angel after me, I wasn't sure if he was one of Heaven's, I’d lived through stranger after all, but he was very annoying with his persistence and knack for showing up at terrible times. Without the Hounds, it was harder for him to track me, so I spent my days laying low and moving from town to town hunting the things that go bump in the night and blend in so terribly well with humans in the day. That day was another one of those days. The man held me close enough to smell the blood that clung to his breath with an arm around my waist that was much stronger than it should have been. A quick blow through the chest, a blade of black fire, or even my russian kindjal would quickly save the world dealing with one more monster. But those left too distinct a wound and made it easier to track me; so instead, I let him bite my neck and drink. He pulled back after a few seconds and I smiled as my eyes turned black, the mark of a soul eater.
"What? Is there something wrong with my blood?"I spoke softly, mimicking the same innocence I’d used to lure him in. His look was one I'd grown accustomed to: the fear that comes from realization. It was never easy for them to tell who was hunting who.
"Delante," his voice was a whisper, so I allowed myself Delante's twisted grin.
"I should thank you, you've been the easiest meal I've ever had," with those final words, I reached into his chest and tore out his squirming soul. I watched as it formed an apple in my palm and the now dead vampire crumpled to the ground with a dulled gaze. By the time Delante finished the apple shaped soul, my eyes had returned to silver and I ran long pianist's fingers through my raven hair to dislodge the ringlets. I stopped in the road to look up at the dark sky and take a deep breath to inhale the cool night air before slipping a silver band from my coat pocket. Silver and Holy Water, as far as I knew, were the best way to keep a demon at bay, but even with enough silver to burn, Delante still slipped through. I drew blood from an old scar in my lip as I slipped the band back onto my wrist, wincing when it burned. I could hear a carriage rattle along the road and I glanced over at it. It was far enough away that all I had to do was take three steps back and it would continue by without a second’s thought, but at the same time...
When I opened my eyes again, the carriage had stopped and the two that had been on the driver's bench were hurrying around to make sure I was alright. I sat up with a groan and rubbed my temples a moment before I heard a rather strange shuffling and a very familiar voice.
"You!" I looked up at the back of the carriage and began laughing like the mad woman I'm sure humans normally see me as. The carriage was a prison on wheels and the woman inside was someone very familiar, "You tried to kill me!" I started to reply when one of the drivers reached me.
"Oh my gosh! Are you alright?" I climbed to my feet and dusted myself off.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I forced a smile, "See? Not a scratch on me." The other one, a man and the first's brother from the looks of them, stared at me with a look of apprehension.
"That's impossible." I shrugged at the man’s quiet words.
"Oh and we ruined your dress, as well." I stared at the woman with a frown.
"It-It's not mine," I spoke slowly before turning back to the woman in the cage when curiosity finally got the better of me, "What are you still doing in there?" Este stuttered a moment before finally getting out an answer.
"I wanted to be in here." I started to shake my head, the disbelief written across my face.
"And why in the three realms would you want to be in a cage?" Disbelief bled into my voice to hide what I truly felt. There was an anger and a hunger inside me that secretly I feared more than life itself. But it couldn’t be hidden from Delante and now she rose inside me to dye my eyes black and call forth a fire in Este's prison. The black fire spread quickly to her skirt and I felt myself smile while the two drivers struggled to put it out and frost spread across the prison bars. Only Este begged with me, but I was gone, back inside my sanctuary playing a rather sad tune on the piano and deaf to the world outside; and mercy was not a word Delante was familiar with.
"Demon," the man spoke upon seeing my eyes change, "Jenny, go get the bible." They were hunters, which explained how Este had come to be imprisoned by them. I smirked as Jenny rushed back with a thick leather bound bible.
"That won't help you," I lifted my hand and the silver band around my wrist cracked as the bible caught fire in Jenny's arms. She dropped it and I smiled, "I'm not something that can be exorcised," the band shattered and before the last fragment hit the ground both hunters were on the ground, the prison door had been torn from its hinges and my hand had closed around Este's throat. "I should feed you to my Hounds," I growled the words and she gave me a weak smile.
"But you won't," she sounded so sure, with only the faintest of tremors in her voice to show that she really was afraid. So I smiled back, wearing the twisted grin that so many associated with Delante.
"Only because they're locked away in the shadows." All at once the fear became obvious in Este's expression.
"Wha-What if I can tell you something important?" I let the smile slip back into Delante's icy calm.
"And what would that be?"
"The Angel of Death has a predator." I almost laughed aloud at the idea, but the look on her face as she choked out the words told me that it was completely true. Even if it hadn’t she had no reason to lie when she knew she’d die either way. So I let go of her throat and waited while she gasped for breath.
"Who is it," I hesitated, "this 'predator'?"
"They say he's an angel." Now I did laugh. Este was rambling on about how white his wings were when I called her back with a question that seemed in my head to be unimportant.
"Is he one of heaven's?" I thought I knew what the answer would be; I was wrong.
"Yes, I think they called him the Angel of Thursday." I stared at Este, Delante scurrying back inside my head as she said the words. I swallowed the momentary panic and stepped back.
"Go, I'll keep you alive for as long as you're useful." She nodded slightly and hurried off down the street. I watched her go before I looked up at the sky and closed my eyes. "Well Cas, I suppose you were more than simply a hallucination," I smirked as I looked down again. "How long have you been hunting me, then?" I got no reply, of course I'd have been more surprised if I had gotten one. I shook my head and breathed a heavy sigh before I turned to disappear down the road towards home.
My home was as empty as usual, making it seem bigger than it actually was. It was still rather large, a Victorian style home that I had heard qualified as a small mansion. It sat alone on a heavily wooded 40 acre plot, and the few people that have seen it spread rumors about it being haunted. Normally, I would have laughed at the irony, but today my mind was otherwise occupied. It only took me a moment to find the book I was looking for. After an incident a couple centuries back during which I was almost dragged back to hell, I had become a meticulous note taker and this particular book was an old journal, with yellowing pages and a worn leather cover. As I leafed through the pages in search of a certain name, they cracked and filled the air with the scent of old paper and stale blood; I had tried so hard to keep the blood off of it. The name only appeared once, back in a time I'd rather have forgotten, back when I had a different name. A long time ago, when I went by the name of Hagar, maidservant to Sarai.
"So I was right," a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth, a real smile, "you stayed to help me," I had never wanted a child, and had God sent an angel that only did as he was told, I'm not sure what would have happened to either of us. I closed my eyes and sighed. "Castiel, if you're really hunting the Angel of Death, then come and get me," okay so I may have been a bit suicidal when the idea popped into my head, but it worked. A moment later I heard the quiet flutter of familiar wings and I turned.
"Suicide is a sin, you know." I frowned, there was no hint of recognition in the eyes of the angel that stood before me, but still it was him; there was a bit more black in his hair than when last we met but otherwise he was the same. "You're the Angel of Death, then? I never expected you to simply tell me where you were one day." I gave a brief smile.
"Had I known I was being hunted, I would have called sooner," I set my journal down and leaned back against the table. "So? what are you waiting for? Maybe we'll get lucky." He studied me a moment with something akin to curiosity in his eyes. He always had seemed so close to... human.
"You really want to die?"
"Look around you, it gets lonely spending eternity with no contact outside of collecting souls and the occasional ‘dragon slayer’." He nodded slightly.
"Sadly, I can't grant that wish," the ice in his voice when he spoke hurt more than the day my wings had burned away. "Heaven doesn't want you dead, they want you in a box." I swallowed the pain and feigned nonchalance in my response.
"A box? That's a new one," I paused a moment as I re-examined his words and I caught a glimpse of hope, "'they' not 'we'?" A smirk tugged at the corner of my mouth, "Careful Cas, keep speaking like that and someone might think that you don't agree with them." His pale blue eyes turned to ice.
"If I made the decisions, you would be choking on your own blood," his words carried a snarl that seemed so unfamiliar in his voice. Then he tipped his head to one side, the curiosity returned to his eyes, "you called me Cas?" I looked down, suddenly afraid to meet his gaze; it makes me laugh now, the idea that his hatred could fill me with such a fear as that I felt then.
"Yes, it just sort of," I swallowed, "slipped out." If this was how he felt about me now, I wasn't sure I wanted to know how he'd react to the rest of the story, "I won't-"
"No, it's alright. It's just that I haven't heard that name in a long time, not since..." he trailed off.
"Hagar," I spoke automatically and he blinked in surprise as for a moment we let the name settled on the silence like a weight.
"How do you know that name?" For a moment, I was thankful for my former employment.
"I was there when she died,” I paused, “she asked for you." Suddenly the ice was gone from Castiel's eyes, and for the briefest moment he was the same Castiel I had known all those years ago, except that now the look on his face appeared to be one of grief.
"How," he stopped and swallowed, "How did she die?" His voice was quiet.
"Slit wrists," at least this fake version of me could have been successful, but me? I was stuck with the scars that I would never let fade, "She said that she felt so alone that she just..." I trailed off with a shrug. At my lie, he sat down in one of the chairs facing me, eyes wide and shaking hands pushing the hair from his face.
"She could have called me, she was never alone." In my sudden frustration, I didn't think through my response.
"She did! A thousand times she tried! You never answered," My voice became a snarl, "Why do you think she felt so alone?" He stared at me a moment before replying.
"How did you know that?" I swallowed, taking a moment to think up an even semi plausible response.
"Hagar was sick," I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully, "Like tuberculosis or the plague sick, I had been following her for a few days, waiting for the disease to take hold. I liked Hagar, I didn't want her to suffer, so when she killed herself, it was a near godsend. She didn't have to suffer anymore," I trailed off, my eyes finding the pale scars on my wrists once again. "So this box, do they honestly believe it will hold me?" I asked out of honest curiosity and a need to change the subject but I think Castiel mistook it for arrogance.
"It is not just any box, it was made to hold Delante, a mere reaper will not be able to escape from the Eternity Box." Well in any case, it was nice to know I hadn't been completely forgotten.
"I know after all of the things I've seen it'd be a miracle for me not to be even a little bit mad, but I don't really want to be locked in the Eternity Box," I was quiet, "and I haven't worked for Death in more years than I can count." Castiel was silent a moment, studying me with the cold cool gaze so familiar to other angels but not with him.
"Then don't," he said it so simply that for the briefest moment, I believed it possible.
"I thought you were the good little soldier, just like your brothers." He gave a dark laugh and leaned back in the chair, running a hand through his hair. In that movement, I saw more black in his hair than I had thought possible for any but Lucifer. I leaned closer to him, studying his eyes as I spoke, "What happened to you that you've done so much wrong?" He stiffened when I reached for the black in his hair, "relax, I control whose soul I take." He continued to watch me, so I dropped my hand back to my side, "really though, from what Hagar told me, you obeyed every order you were given." He studied me a moment, eyes like ice.
"There is a war being fought, maybe you hadn’t noticed." I'd like to say that he picked up the sarcasm from me but honestly it'd be too hard to tell.
"Really Cas? Does that mean you killed someone?" Naturally, my response to sarcasm was more sarcasm but he simply glared.
"I was ordered to do things I didn't think were right." Now I was really curious.
"An angel questioning God," I said it aloud mostly to prove just how strange it sounded. "The last time that happened was..." I paused in thought, "How old am I?"
"My orders are not coming from God, they haven't in a long time." I nodded slightly.
"So this 'not being locked in the Eternity Box' thing, how exactly is that going to work with a rogue angel in my library who would rather see me dead than follow Heaven's orders." He studied me in silence.
"You didn't believe that you would be doing it alone, did you?" For a moment I just stood there in continued silence as my brain struggled to piece together an even semi-coherent response, but thankfully some brave soul chose then to knock on my door.
"I'll be right back," it took everything I had not to run from the room but I wasn't in any particular hurry to see who was at the door. "Este," to be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten about Este, but there she stood on my step in the pouring rain and yet completely dry.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Oh no, I just have a rogue angel sitting in my library who would rather see me choke to death on my own blood than follow Heaven's orders." From the look on her face she assumed I had suddenly become the type to joke about such things, and she seemed to be waiting for me to recant my statement. When I didn't, realization slowly spread across her face as what I said finally seemed to set in.
"Well good day to you too," she muttered the words and slipped past me into the entryway, "A rogue angel," she studied me a moment, "the Angel of Thursday? The one hunting you?" I nodded.
"The same." Este breathed a heavy sigh.
"Well that was a waste of time." I gave a harsh laugh.
"In all honesty, I only asked so that someone would find my body." She studied me, almost as if she was unsure of how to respond. I would have waited, but something pulled me away, the slightest of tremors to tell me that one of my Hounds had slipped through the cracks between our world and the shadows. Curiosity caused me to turn away from Este and follow the tremor back into the library. What I found set my face into a snarl, "harm my Hound, and I won't be this docile thing you've been talking to anymore." Castiel looked up; the silver knife in his hand frozen mid flight on it's way down into Keep's spine. Keep snarled up at him, the silver in his pointed ears and the seal on his soul the only things keeping his spines flat along his back. "Keep." In an instant his demeanor changed to friendly and he turned to press his head into my hand, "how did you find your way through?" I smiled, "Are the others with you?" I studied his gaze a moment and frowned, "no, it's just you," I sighed and sat back on the floor when Keep pressed his forehead into my chest.
"So the other Hounds," Castiel had lowered the knife but he still kept a wary eye on Keep, "where are they?" I wore a lonely smile.
"All around you, hidden away in the shadows." He tipped his head to one side as he examined me, weighing his possible responses. Finally he replaced the knife inside his coat and sat back in his chair.
"Who was at the door?" I only had a moment to be surprised by his nonchalance.
"I was," I looked back over my shoulder at Este as she studied me. "There were always rumors that when you escaped, your wings were sealed in ink, I never believed it before," I glanced past Este at my reflection in the mirror, where black ink wings could be glimpsed through the tears in my dress. For a moment I could taste the power locked within the ink, but I tore myself away and my gaze returned to Este. I shook my head ever so slightly, hoping that she wouldn't tell what she knew about who I really was. "So you're him, then? The Angel of Thursday?" The expression Castiel wore as he appraised her was one of boredom. After a moment of silence I climbed to my feet again.
"Castiel, this is Este Demetriou," I kept my voice steady, slipping into Delante's calm as I felt the panic rise within, "Este, this is Castiel, the Angel of Thursday." One day, I would look back and laugh at my thoughts, but at the time I was too busy fearing that my home would be torn apart by an angel and a rather powerful witch. Apparently my worries were unfounded, because suddenly Castiel became the perfect gentleman.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," he stood and stepped forward, offering his hand.
"It's, uh," Este paused and swallowed, "It's nice to meet you too, Castiel," she shook his hand with a new tinge to her cheeks and her French accent bleeding into her words, "or do you prefer the Angel of Thursday?" I sighed again and slouched into one of the empty chairs.
"I go by Castiel." The two of them took the other seats and I frowned as silence fell.
"Well," I broke the silence and stood, "I'd offer to make tea, but I actually don't have any," I started to turn to leave but paused, "I'm going to go, uh, change," I glanced down, "and see what I can do about returning this dress." Castiel watched me go, but Este just waved goodbye; I almost laughed as I climbed the stairs to the second floor.
I sat frowning at the many, many holes in my borrowed dress and spinning a needle and thread across my knuckles. I sat back with a sigh and threw the needle like a dart at the pin cushion on my side table.
"Well this is completely ruined," I held it up again, "I'm sorry Miss Meyer." I climbed to my feet and took a moment to be thankful for the lack of rustling fabric that my trousers afforded me. Este and Castiel were still chatting in my library when I slipped out into the rain, pulling the hood of my coat up. I had always loved the rain; it made the world seem so much more peaceful than I had ever known it to be. The walk back into town was long and as I neared the air began to fill with the familiar scent of damp factory smoke. I put on a bitter smile, Londoners and their love of their factories never ceased to amaze me. Most of the people in the streets gave me a wide berth, I was after all living in a ‘haunted’ house.
“Is it true what they say about you?” I looked down in surprise at the little girl as she hurried along beside me, “that you’re a witch?” I smiled, slowing my stride so that she could keep up.
“No child, I’m just overly fond of fresh air and silence. Besides,” I paused to look back at the trees, “don’t you think the trees are beautiful?” she started to reply but a woman, I assume her mother, took her by the hand.
“Come dear, you mustn’t talk to her, you’ll catch a curse.” I nearly laughed at the sheer impossibility of such a thing, but thought better of it. As she led the girl away, I raised a hand in a silent farewell and she smiled and waved back. Children, I believe are young enough that curiosity wins out over the instinct that normally led to the distrust I usually received. I shook off the thought and carried on down street after street as I wound my way towards a small seamstress’ shop.
“Miss Meyer?” I called out as I came in, pulling my hood back, “I’ve brought the dress back, though at this point it’d probably be more useful as kindling,” I trailed off as Vanessa Meyer opened the door from her studio. “I’m sorry,” I held up the dress, “I was in a bit of an accident.” Vanessa’s eyes widened and she took the dress to get a better look, as if she didn’t believe it.
“What on earth happened?” I ran a hand through my hair and hoped that she would drop it, but no such luck.
“I was run over by a carriage.” She tossed the dress aside and started to examine me as if I were a new customer, “relax Vanessa, I’m alright.” The look she gave me was one of disbelief so I changed the subject, “how is the business going?” I’d had an invested interest in her little shop since she had come to me to borrow the money to start it.
“It’s blooming wonderfully, like a rose.” I frowned at her phrasing as she hurried back around a counter covered in designs, “I still wish you’d let me make you a dress, if only to thank you for the help with the payments.” I laughed.
“I don’t believe that’d be a good idea,” I spoke slowly but she took my arm in hand and started to lead me back to her studio.
“Nonsense my dear, it’ll be a beautiful dress, just perfect for you, and it could even show off your wings.” That’s when I pulled out of her grip.
“The wings, how did you know about the wings?” My voice was low, a warning. She smiled in response and the image of the short, stout woman that stood before me faded into a stranger.
“Of course I know about the wings,” she tipped her head to one side and her eyes turned to a snake’s. “We were comrades in Hell after all.” I didn’t have time to react before she hit me, knocking me back through the front door. I was on my knees when she followed me out.
“Where’s Miss Meyer?” I was quiet.
“You actually care about these pathetic little children?” She laughed aloud, “They do nothing but toddle around and get eaten by father’s monsters.”
“Where is Vanessa Meyer.” She rolled her eyes at my repeated question.
“She’s at home, sleeping off a drugged glass of champagne.” I kept my eyes on the ground and smiled at her bitter tone, not my normal fake smile but one filled with madness.
“Then she’ll never know.” The demon wore a look of curiosity as I climbed to my feet. “You picked the wrong time to start a fight with me,” I lifted my hand and snapped my fingers, instantly they caught black fire, “I’ve been itching to burn something for a while now,” I grinned as the hunter demon attacked me; she was fast, but nowhere near as fast as I was, “Lucifer created your class to be my subordinates, did you honestly believe that you alone could drag me back to that place?” She squirmed, struggling against my grip on her throat, “burn away.” I imagine that since I wasn’t later chased out of England, no one saw my black eyes or the fire that burned the strange demon away as I watched in silence. Silence always fell when the black faded from my eyes. I watched her disappear. “What a waste of a soul,” I spoke softly and looked up as the rain continued to fall. For a moment I was back in Edo and it was 1657, when I watched as the fire finally died off and the ashes fell like snow. It had been my fault. After a moment the all too familiar sense that the world was spinning around me set in and the ground rushed to meet me.
I woke on the side of the road to someone tugging on my coat so I groaned and sat up, pressing my fingers to my temples as pain sparked in my head.
“Stop pushing me, I’m going,” I shot a glare at the person pushing me before I realized that it was Keep, trying to get me on my feet, “Keep,” I rubbed the thick of fur around his neck, “what are you doing out of the house? Did I call you?”
“No, he came with me.” I looked up, squinting against the glare of sunlight off the fog, “is it customary for you to sleep on the sides of roads?” I gave a harsh laugh and climbed to my feet, dusting myself off.
“No Cas, I got a bit distracted and,” I stopped, catching myself before I gave myself away, “may have had a bit much to drink.” He nodded slightly and I couldn’t help but be a little insulted that he didn’t ask why I’d have been drinking. “When did you become friends with Keep? He was ready to tear you apart when I left.” He shrugged.
“I walked Miss Demetriou home and he followed me out the door. He was friendly enough after we dropped her off.” I blinked in surprise and glanced down at Keep but I couldn’t think of anything to say. “I never understood why humans are so preoccupied with relationships, that’s all Miss Demetriou talked about.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Is that something they taught you when they dragged you back to Heaven after Hagar?” He gave me a glare that ended the discussion immediately so I turned to walk back to my home in the woods, Keep trotting along at my heels. When Castiel followed I paused in my stride, “Do you plan on following me for long?”
“I was sent to drag you to Heaven but instead I am going to help you avoid that, so I plan on keeping an eye on you for a while.” I made a face.
“I take it that you have no idea how strange that sounded.” It wasn’t a question, but he seemed to need to reply.
“Did it?” I nodded but kept walking in silence, at least until we reached the trees.
“Would it help if I were sealed?” He blinked in what seemed like a brief moment of confusion.
“I suppose it would, but that kind of seal would be very painful.” I shrugged off his warning and flashed a grim smile.
“I’ve been sealed before, I know what to expect,” he studied me again with curiosity.
“Why?” I hesitated a moment.
“I’ve done a lot that I regret, and I was trying to find a way to make up for it and prevent my doing anything else,” I shrugged, quiet a moment as I thought over my half-truth and my motive for a second seal, “It sounds idiotic when I say it aloud.” He shook his head as I opened the front door to the house.
“It sounds human.” I studied him a moment but said nothing. “I heard rumors while in London that there was a witch living in an old house in the woods, that wouldn’t by chance be you, would it?” I laughed.
“Yes, that would be me. They don’t know this, but there is only one witch in London, and she can be a bit territorial.” He raised an eyebrow.
“And who would that be?”
“You met her earlier, Miss Demetriou,” I mimicked his voice and he stared at me.
“She is a witch?” he paused in thought, “I suppose that explains the multi colored eyes.” I had forgotten about her eyes, like a black cat’s in green and violet.
“I forgot to mention that, didn’t I.” He nodded and I sighed as I hung my coat on the hook in the entryway.
“You also forgot to say what your name is.” I blinked.
“I’m the Angel of Death, did you need more than that?”
“Not if I was following orders, no, but I’m not following orders.” I started to argue his point, but nothing came to mind.
“Fair point,” I offered my hand, “I go by Arron.” He shook my hand, “Arron Masey.” He smiled for the first time since he’d come.
“It’s been…” he paused, seeming to search for a word, “interesting meeting you.”
“I would’ve said Hell.”
“It wasn’t that bad.” I shrugged.
“If you say so,” I moved past him and through one of many doors into a kitchen too large for one person. “That tea I mentioned earlier, would you like some?”
“I thought you didn’t have any.”
“That’s a bit rude, don’t you think?” I paused and studied him over the kettle as I filled it with water.
“Would you invite an enemy into your home for tea?”
“Fair enough.” I turned away from him as I set the kettle on the stove. The fire below started instantly for me, alive with flickering hues of blue, black, and violet as it burned and frost spread like a web across the stove..
“So,” I broke the silence, “a seal,” I turned back to Castiel, “anything I need to track down?” He stood silent for a short while, contemplating an answer.
“Holy water, Silver, Vervain, and white sage.” I blinked, “oh! And a lot of white paint,” he spoke so simply that I’m not sure he knew how difficult it would be for me to obtain some of those ingredients if certain ships weren’t in port and luck wasn’t on my side, which it rarely was.
“Well,” I spoke when the kettle’s whistling broke the silence, “at least I have the basics.” He blinked as I poured the tea.
“You have Holy water, and silver just lying around your house?” I nodded, “why?”
“What did you think, that these piercings were fake?” I pulled a piece of my shattered silver band from my pocket, wincing as I tossed it to him.
“This is real silver.” I nodded and held out his cup to him.
“I needed to get a replacement for that, but a second seal would probably work even better, even if it means that I’m constantly being tracked.” He nodded in understanding and set the silver fragment on the counter.
“Second seal?” I hesitated a moment before I turned my back to him and unfastened the leather vest I wore over my blouse. He could see the black ink wings through the light fabric of my shirt, “who did it?” I shrugged the vest back on and picked up my tea.
“It’s been so long, I don’t remember.” He nodded and didn’t press, but I doubted he believed me.
“At least it explains why the humans called you Angel of Death, if you had wings once.” I nodded though I knew it wasn’t true. There was a loud thump and the sound of a sofa sliding across the wood floor in the sitting room; it wasn’t much, but at least it was a momentary distraction.
“Keep, stay off of the furniture,” I called out and heard him climb down before I leaned back with a small smile.
“He seems like a handful,” I gave Castiel a nonchalant shrug.
“I manage alright,” I smiled, “I’m just glad he doesn’t shed,” he nodded slightly as his brow furrowed in thought.
“You said his name was Keep?” I nodded as I sipped my tea, silently swearing at myself for using his name, “Isn’t that the name of one of Delante’s Hell Hounds?”
“The demon?” I laughed, “I’m flattered that you think so highly of me,” I tried and failed to keep the sarcasm out of my voice and his gaze narrowed. “He’s mine from back when I worked for Daniel,” I paused in thought, “but when I think about it, aren’t all Hell Hounds Delante’s? She did create them, after all.” He shrugged. Silence stretched between us again, as if it were a living thing that existed simply to swallow the words as they came to us. I sipped my tea, taking the moment to count my lies and place them in a neat and orderly fashion on a shelf in my head. I’ve spent a majority of my life lying about who I was, keeping myself in the ‘Angel of Death’ category alone shouldn’t be too hard; at least I didn’t think so. I set my tea cup in the sink and broke the silence, “I’ll go look for the not so traditional things we need,” I paused in thought, “come with me, I’ll show you where the paint is,” he raised an eyebrow and set his cup down slowly, as if it held all of his thoughts within.
“Alright.” He spoke slowly and followed me out of the room after only a moment’s hesitation. I came to a locked door in my hallway and pulled the key from my pocket. It turned with a reassuring click and I couldn’t help my smile as I pushed the door in. Castiel started to follow me but I stopped him in the doorway. “Give me a moment to get the light.” He nodded despite the slight confusion that found its way to his face. I knew that when I stepped inside I would disappear from sight as long as I left the lights off, it’d be so easy for me to simply vanish for good; but a small piece of me still trusted Castiel, even if he didn’t know who I really was. I snapped my fingers and lit the match in my hand before using it to light the oil in front of me. The light triggered another and another until all of my painted lanterns were lit and a color tinged light filled the room.
“Wow.” I looked back at Castiel in surprise as he studied the paintings that covered my walls.
“It’s a good way to pass the time.” He nodded slightly though he didn’t appear to have actually heard me as he reached out with light fingers to a painting of a dark haired young woman hugging her knees and crying as her black wings wrapped around her. I shivered and looked away; the image conjured too many old and painful memories. “Cas,” I called his name and he pulled back his hand, pale blue gaze snapping to me, “the paint,” I gestured to the gallons of white paint that sat in the center of the room.
“Why do you have this much white paint?”
“So that I can start over with a blank canvas.” He blinked.
“You’re painting over this?” I nodded, not sure about his interest in saving the paintings by someone he had earlier wanted dead.
“I had planned to…” I spoke slowly.
“What?” I choked on the word in my complete surprise.
“It’s amazing, you can’t just paint over this,” I raised an eyebrow at that.
“These walls have seven layers of paint,” he just continued to stare at me so I sighed and shook my head after deciding that it wasn’t worth the argument, “fine, I’ve got a couple more empty rooms anyways.” I looked around at the walls of the room and then back at him, “what do you need the paint for anyway?” He looked down at the wood floor, studying it for a moment before looking up again.
“Do you mind if I paint on your floor?” I frowned and studied him a moment before answering.
“I guess it’s only fitting to have paint on the floor and the walls,” I paused, “but what are you going to paint?” I asked out of curiosity. He seemed to be weighing his words when he finally replied.
“It’s kind of a, uh,” he paused to take a step back from me, “modified Demon’s Trap,” in that moment, for fear of giving myself away, I gave a look that carried as much of Delante’s cold stare as I could manage without my eyes turning from silver to black. “It won’t trap you until an angel tells it to,” he frowned, “this is a lot harder to explain than I thought it would be.” I shook my head and took a deep breath; a seal required a certain amount of trust on my part after all.
“Just, start painting, or whatever it is you’re going to do. I’ll go get the other things,” I turned and left, not waiting to hear his reply.
The White Sage, if I were lucky, would be at the docks; there was bound to be a shipment from the Americas. The docks smelled of the sea and I paused to take in the scent as it mixed with those of plants, meat, and the ever present London smoke. I took a step forward, into the torrent of people that hurried by, letting them carry me in the direction which I wanted to go. I ducked out when I caught the scent of something not quite human, following it around a corner and towards an American Galleon.
“Excuse me sir,” I caught up with one of the sailors as he unloaded crates of unidentified contents. “You wouldn’t happen to know the inventory of this ship, would you?” I gestured to the ship as I spoke and he nodded.
“Aye, is there something specific you’re looking for?” I saw no harm in trying the easy way, it has been known to work before, just not for me.
“I’m looking to purchase a small quantity of White Sage.” The man gave me a strange look and scented the air like an animal would.
“You’re a demon,” he snarled the words and I watched in patient silence as his shape began to change. His bones popped and cracked, reshaping his skeleton into a rather large cat that I had never seen outside of the London zoo and the Asiatic wilds. I breathed a heavy sigh as I rubbed the bridge of my nose.
“You know, I had really hoped to avoid this.” He bared long canines and sharp teeth as I opened my coat for the scoped flintlock pistol in its holster on my hip, “but I’m a bit paranoid,” I pulled a bullet from the pouch next the holster, “so I always carry these things with me,” I held it up, “A bullet filled with white ash, if I remember correctly a shot to the neck with this is the only thing that can kill your kind.” I loaded my flintlock and pointed it at him, “and I am a very good shot,” I paused, tipping my head slightly to one side, “thing is, I don’t really want to kill you; your kind is after all fairly harmless to humans. Honestly, is one small bit of White Sage worth your life?” His snarl faded, they always do when looking down the barrel of a gun that carries death. He seemed to glare at me while his tail flicked his frustration, but honestly it was too hard to tell what he was thinking. A moment later he changed back to human form and I smiled as I lowered my gun. “Good, now if you don’t mind, I’d like to collect it myself.” He nodded slightly.
“Follow me,” he didn’t wait for a response before he turned and climbed the gangplank onto the ship’s deck. I climbed up behind him and blinked as he opened a door in a smooth wall.
“Clever man, hiding such a thing where it won’t be found and won’t be damaged.” He didn’t reply, simply gestured me inside the door to a box filled with leaves of a dusted white. I stepped up, paused and turned back to him with a quiet laugh. “Just so you know, if you try to shut me in here, I will get out, and I will burn you alive,” I looked up at him with eyes turned black and he took a few steps back.
“Yes ma’am,” I smiled as my eyes changed back and turned back to take a few leaves of the plant. The door didn’t close behind me and when I turned back to the man he was about to leave. I caught hold of the back of his vest.
“Just out of curiosity, where are you hiding the pelt?” he turned part of the vest so that the inside could be seen and I smiled when I saw the tiger’s stripes, “clever man,” I repeated myself and he nodded. “Thank you for your assistance,” I let go of his vest, handed him an excessive amount of coin, and stepped past him onto the gangplank, “Perhaps I’ll see you around,” he nodded and I waved goodbye as I slipped back into the crowds of people that continued to fill the streets.
Much as I disliked the idea, the only people that I knew would have something like Vervain were witches, and the only witch in London was Este. I found her home in the French Quarter, a large home that matched her need for feminine looking things. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door, a part of me hoping she wouldn’t answer while the rest of me just wanted to know that I would never lose control again. Este opened the door with a certain excitement about her, right up until she saw that it was me.
“Oh, it’s you,” I blinked in confusion as she turned and walked back into her home, leaving me to either stand on the step for eternity or follow her inside. I opted for the latter.
“Were you hoping it was someone else?”
“To be perfectly honest, I would be disappointed that you showed up even if I were not hoping that,” I raised an eyebrow.
“So you were, then?” I am fairly certain that if I could die, I would be the cause of the saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ “it wouldn’t be a gentleman by any chance,” she studied me with apprehension.
“Why does it matter to you?”
“I’d like to know for next time I decide to hunt you.” She glared at me, despite my blunt honesty. “You were hoping it was Cas, weren’t you?” I’m not sure that I wanted to know the answer to that one.
“What do you want, Miss Masey,” I frowned at her change in subject.
“I was hoping I might be able to talk you into letting me have some Vervain,” she stared at me with something akin to shock.
“I’m sorry, did you just say Vervain,” I nodded.
“It’s for a seal,” I paused, “or at least that’s what Cas told me,” she shook her head.
“You already have one seal on her, normally that’d be enough,” I shook my head.
“I swear, all of you must believe that I just where all of this silver for kicks,” Este remained silent, “you know my demon, you’ve seen what I can do when I’m in control, imagine the destruction if she were in control and still had that kind of power,” she studied me a moment longer before breathing an exasperated sigh.
“Alright fine, but only because I want to win next time you come after me,” I gave a half-hearted laugh as she disappeared deeper into her home, returning a moment later with a few sprigs of something that appeared like lilac colored milkweed.
“Thank you, Este,” she nodded slightly as she handed it to me.
“Let me know if it works,” I wore a sad smile.
“After how she reacted to the last seal, I imagine you’ll hear reports of an unstoppable fire burning London to the ground if it doesn’t,” she gave me the smallest of smiles.
“I suppose we will,” she was quiet and before I knew it, the door was closed again to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned for home.
Home was warm when I stepped inside, not the usual warm that came from being in out of the chill but something… unnatural. I paused in the entryway, hanging up my coat while the unease settled over me. I let out a whistle and listened for Keep.
“Keep? Where are you going?” I heard Castiel’s voice echo down the hall as Keep came around the corner.
“Hey pup,” I crouched and rubbed the fur around the thick of his neck when he sat in front of me, “I suppose if you’re still here, not much could have gotten into the house,” I smiled briefly.
“You’re back.” I looked up at Castiel when he stopped at the corner.
“Stating the obvious?” He said nothing so I stood, “You are a messy painter,” I studied him a moment. His coat hung on the rack next to mine and his sleeves were rolled up but still he managed to get them and his forearms splattered with white paint, “How did you manage to do all that? I painted an entire wall without getting it anywhere but my pants,” his gaze narrowed but he said nothing. “Alright then,” I pulled the White Sage and Vervain from my coat pockets, “I’m not sure why you needed these, but here.” He nodded as he studied the plants I handed him.
“Thanks,” I raised an eyebrow.
“Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”
“You’re not sealed yet,” he paused to change the subject, “Silver and Holy water?”
“Those are in my pantry.” He nodded and followed me back into the kitchen. I pulled off my vest and tossed it over the back of a chair before I turned back from the pantry to find him standing expectantly not two feet away. “I’ll carry this.” He backed away with a nod and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief; I had never liked to have people that close, not unless they were my next meal. We were silent while we walked back to the painted room, and when I spoke, it was more to fill the silence than anything else, “you finished painting then.” He nodded and continued across the room to a set of four copper bowls. I didn’t ask where they had come from; I didn’t really care to know. I stopped at the edge of the white paint, still not trusting that once I entered I would be allowed back out.
“It’s alright, you won’t get stuck,” Castiel’s gaze had softened some since earlier, but I still struggled to trust those eyes as I had before. He set a bowl at each of four points within the painted seal; the White Sage in one, Vervain smoking in the next, then he spoke again, “you’ll have to enter it at some point, you have to be sitting in the middle.” He took the silver and holy water from my hands and each of them were left in a bowl of their own. I watched him move to lean on the wall before taking a deep breath and taking the first step onto the seal. I breathed a sigh of relief when I felt no sudden grip or pressure on my body. I looked up again at Castiel when I heard a quiet, almost inaudible laugh; he was wearing the smallest of smiles but when he saw me look, it vanished. “I told you that it would be harmless alone.” I glared.
“Forgive me for not trusting the person that earlier stated that he’d rather see me dead than follow orders,” he nodded slowly at my sarcasm.
“Fair enough,” I stepped into the center of the circle and stopped.
“What am I supposed to do here, anyways?” He studied me a moment.
“Sit.” I started to ask another question but he had begun to speak in Heaven’s Latin and instantly I was forced to my knees by the sudden weight of a Demon’s trap. I managed to spit out a single swear before I was on the ground writhing in a pain that blinded me and made Castiel’s voice seem ten times louder. Then it was over, and I found myself temporarily blind on the ground while I struggled to catch my breath. The weight was gone, at least for the moment, and I blinked the light back into my eyes.
“Is it over?” My voice was hoarse as I looked over at Castiel from my place on the ground.
“Yes,” he slid down to sit against one wall and rubbed his temples, “you are quite the screamer.” I glared.
“You try being sealed, it’s quite painful.” He nodded slightly while I sat up, “I suppose I won’t need these for a while then,” he watched in silence as I began stripping off silver bands and earrings that now did nothing to burn me at their touch. “I’ve worn these so long, I feel a little lost without them.” He smirked and shook his head before lifting a silver cross from around his neck and tossing it to me. I studied it a moment before looking up again, about to voice my confusion.
“It’ll keep the seal intact for a while when I’m not around.”
“Ah,” I smiled briefly and hung it around my own neck, the contrast of its warmth against my skin sending an involuntary shiver down my spine, “you know, Este might kill for this sort of thing,” he looked slightly confused by my comment.
“A seal?” I laughed.
“No, the cross. Apparently most women find jewelry… flattering,” he still looked confused so I shrugged, “don’t ask me to explain it, the only thing I find it is useful, and that’s only if it’s silver,” he nodded again. I moved to lean back against one of the other walls and breathed a heavy sigh, “you look as exhausted as I feel.” Castiel smiled at that, quiet for a moment before he began to laugh, “what are you laughing at?”
“I was going to kill you, or at least drag you to Heaven with me, but now here we are. I sealed you, it’s like I’m helping you stay in hiding,” he shook his head, “It’s funny how quickly plans get torn up when the events actually come to pass,” I grinned at that.
“That’s why I never make them,” he smiled and I studied him in thought a moment, “what made you change your mind?” His smile turned sad and he seemed to hesitate.
“You reminded me of Hagar,” My smile slipped away and I almost said something to point out the obvious connection, but then I caught myself; he didn’t know and I’d like to have kept it that way.
“You cared about her a lot, didn’t you?” My voice was soft as I spoke the words and he studied me as they hung in the air between us, the smile gone from his face and nothing but grief and guilt in his eyes.
“I loved her,” he finally spoke, his voice barely above a whisper, “and I was the reason she killed herself,” I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat.
“I’m sorry,” I had never understood why people said that to others when they lost someone, not until now, when there was nothing else for me to say; nothing but the truth. I said it because I had caused the pain in his eyes and yet I was still unwilling to tell him the truth, because it was true that Hagar had died that day; she was forever lost and replaced with me. “At least she tried,” I breathed the words, looking up in momentary panic when I realized that I had spoken them aloud, but Castiel had fallen asleep. So I smiled again, a sad smile, “at least she tried to forget and move on,” I used to tell myself that Hagar had been weak, a coward, but the truth was that she had had the strength and courage to carry on while I hid behind lies and madness. I sighed and leaned my head back against the wall, “I’m sorry Cas,” the words sounded so final to me as I closed my eyes and set my jaw against the nightmares that I knew would come.
I woke to someone banging on the front door and the sound of thunder outside. Castiel was still slumped against the wall asleep as I climbed to my feet. I found Keep baring his teeth in a silent snarl at the door and gestured him back. Este was at the door, soaked and bloody as she pushed past me and slammed it shut again.
“Este?” I started to ask, but I couldn’t get another word in.
“They’re coming after me again, the people from the carriage.” I raised an eyebrow.
“They’re human,” my voice betrayed my disbelief.
“They’re dangerous, and powerful-”
“And you led them,” my voice had become a snarl, “to my home.” I shook my head and sighed at the impending headache, “Castiel is asleep in one of the rooms down the hall. Whatever you do, don’t let him near the windows,” she gave me a confused look and I wore a sad smile, “unless by some stroke of luck on their part I die, he can’t ever know about who I really am, any of it,” she nodded slightly. “Good,” I turned to leave but she grabbed my arm.
“Just, try not to burn down the city, alright?” at her words I nearly decked her, but I had given her a more important task than lying unconscious on the floor so instead, I nodded and stepped out the door. Without my coat I was soaked through in only a moment as I made my way down the path to meet the hunters.
“Evening,” I called out to the hunters when I saw them, maintaining an air of nonchalance as I blocked the footpath up to the house.
“You!” For a moment I was distracted by how often I was being greeted like that lately. I kept my hands shoved into my pockets as I studied the one who’d spoken, Jenny I believe her name was. “You left me in the mud. And what self respecting English woman wears trousers?” I glanced down at my pants, leaning back on my heels for a moment.
“First off, I’m not English,” I paused, “at least not originally, and second, I quite like trousers.” She swung at me with a knife in her hand but it was an easy dodge as I glanced at her brother.
“Is clothing all she cares about? How do you stand her?” He had armed himself with holy water when he saw me and it stung when it hit my face. “Well then,” I wiped it from my face as they stared with wide eyes, “that stuff stings more when you have to drink it.” While I was distracted Jenny had changed her grip on the knife and now it punched into my stomach up to the hilt. She stepped back, letting go when my gaze turned black; I could imagine what they saw, the cold black calm that Delante’s eyes held chilled even me to the bone. “Why must people always insist on the hard way?” I pulled the knife out and lifted my hand as the air sparked and caught fire in my palm, “I really don’t like having to constantly kill people,” I waited for them to pull another knife, but they didn’t.
“Why would you not like to kill people? And drinking Holy Water? You’re a demon.” I gave a harsh laugh as the black fire flickered out and the dark faded from my eyes.
“Not all of us monsters are as bad as the ones you Hunters are called to hunt.”
“So you’re telling us that that witch isn’t actually a bad person,” the man voiced his disbelief and I hesitated as I spoke, weighing my answer.
“No, she actually has been known to make the occasional human sacrifice, but at the same time, she keeps the other witches out of London,” the two of them exchanged looks of skepticism.
“And you?” Jenny practically snarled the words, “What’s your excuse?” I shrugged.
“I’m a demon trying to make up for all of the wrong I’ve done,” I paused, “I’m double sealed now.” They scoffed at that so I shook my head, “The Angel in my house, if we wake him up he’ll tell you about the second,” I think they only followed me back up to the house to see whether or not I was lying about Castiel. Este had started a fire in the sitting room’s stone fireplace and I paused by it, hoping my clothes would dry.
“What were you thinking?!” Este panicked when she saw the hunters follow me in.
“Relax Este,” I paused, “Where’s Cas?” She nodded towards the painted room, her eyes never leaving the two. I started towards the door but Este caught my arm again.
“You can’t leave me here alone with them, they’ll kill me,” her voice still carried panic but I shook her off.
“You’re not alone, you’ve still got Keep to watch you.”
“Like some mangy mutt is going to protect me against them,” I glared at her and jerked my arm from her grasp.
“Oi, that ‘mangy mutt’ as you so eloquently put it is one of my Hell Hounds,” my voice was low, “show some respect,” I left without waiting for her next complaint. “Hey Cas,” I opened the door and crouched beside Castiel’s form in the dark, “Cas wake up, we’ve got visitors.” He didn’t respond, nor did he when I checked for a pulse, so I leaned close enough to whisper in his ear, “It’s me Cas, don’t you recognize my voice? I’m right in front of you, just open your eyes.”
“Arron?” I leaned back on my heels, “did you say something? While I was asleep,” he trailed off and I shook my head.
“I just said that we have visitors.” He nodded slowly. I pulled him to his feet and led the way back to the sitting room. I returned to my place by the fire and watched while Castiel introduced himself to Jennifer and Nathaniel Rivers, as the hunters claimed to be. Este seemed to be hiding behind him and Keep had settled himself at my feet.
“You’ve collected quite the menagerie, my dear.” My blood ran cold as the familiar voice drowned the others out and my gaze found Lucifer leaning against the archway and smiling as his fire filled red gold eyes held mine, “I’m coming for you, my dear, you and all of your rebel friends.” I had begun to shake, holding myself up by the mantel, “starting with Alter.”
“Leave him alone,” I whispered the words, “Leave them all alone.” Lucifer simply smiled, and before I knew what was happening, I was on my hands and knees doing more coughing and choking than breathing.
“You forget my dear, you still belong to me.” I watched his image vanish as Castiel crouched beside me and the others stared.
“Arron,” his voice was soft as Keep licked my hand to show his worry, “are you alright?” I looked up at him and forced a rather bloody smile.
“He’s gone,” I started laughing, a panicked breathless laugh as I rolled onto my back, “He was never here, he’s still locked away in Hell. He can’t come for us, he’s not here.” Castiel stared at me and Este came out of hiding as I continued my mad laughter. “He can’t break out, he can’t ever break out,” I held my head as the headache set in. “If he does…” I trailed off; if he does, the only people I care about will die.
It took me a moment, when I woke up, to figure out what had happened to cause my sudden loss of consciousness; I wasn’t sure I believed the events when I did. I sat up and took a moment to find my bearings before climbing out of bed and opening the door. Castiel stood on the other side, fist poised to knock and for a moment we stood in a complete and uncomfortable silence.
“Hi.” He lowered his hand when I finally spoke.
“Good morning.” I glanced out the window and nodded, “are you alright? Last night, you just started coughing up blood and then the laughing and…” He trailed off and I nodded again.
“Sorry, I was,” I swallowed, “hallucinating.” He gave me a confused look, “I was told that Alter was going to die,” I swallowed, “and he would only be the first,” I shook my head. “I need to go,” I slipped past him and ran down the stairs so fast I nearly fell down them.
“Where are you going?” He called down the stairs after me as I shrugged on my coat.
“For a walk, I need some air,” it was a lie, but it was enough that he would always know where I was, he didn’t need to know what I was doing there and I was out the door before he could ask.
I had broken into a sprint the minute I reached the edge of town; it was fear that propelled me down street after street, fear that one of my friends might be dead. The house I stopped at was almost as old as mine and a bit larger, but the same familiar scent of unnatural things clung to its walls. I stood on the step banging on the door until a young woman who appeared close to my age opened it.
“Ena,” I spoke her name in a breathless exhale as I hugged her.
“Arron,” she pulled back to hold me at arm’s length as she studied me with amber eyes, “are you alright?”
“Yes,” I paused, “well no, not mentally. Is everyone alright? I saw,” I stopped again and swallowed, “I saw Lucifer.” Her eyes went wide, “he told me that he was coming for us, starting with Alter.” Ena stared at me a moment, a fear in her eyes that I’m sure was mirrored in my own.
“He’s been missing,” she was quiet, “he just vanished from his room one day, the door was still locked.” For a moment, I was falling into a pit of panic that almost made me decide right then to just tuck tail and run.
“Vanished?” my voice was barely a whisper as my stomach clenched and I let go of Ena to cover the coughing fit that suddenly wracked my body.
“Arron? You look really pale,” she trailed off when she saw the blood on my hand, “I’m sorry,” her voice was soft as her eyes changed, one red and the other so pale blue it was nearly white. “I can’t,” she stepped back while I wiped the blood from my hand.
“Why did you have to follow me?” She didn’t get the chance to answer.
“Ena? Who are you talking to?” Normally when Death is standing at the door, it is a bad thing but this time it only raised an opportunity.
“Daniel,” I swallowed the blood that filled my mouth.
“Delante.” I grimaced at the name and he corrected himself, “my apologies, Arron.”
“It’s alright,” I paused as I tried to quiet the urge to run, “Do you still have the key I gave you?” He nodded slightly and took it from his vest pocket.
“Here,” he handed it to me and I smiled in relief.
“Thank you.” He nodded as a spark of black fire snaked its way through the key’s loop hole and around my neck before it pulled tight and turned to thin black chain. The feel of the metal against my chest beside the cross gave me a sense of comfort that I hadn’t known I could feel. “Watch yourselves,” I spoke again, the fear still in my voice, “Lucifer is coming, and he’s bringing Hell with him.” Danny nodded and Ena gave me one last hug.
“Be careful Arron, he’ll search England for us, but he’ll go to the ends of the world for you,” I nodded and gave them a weak smile before I turned to go.
On my return home, I was met on the step by Jenny and Nate, both of whom were wearing solemn expressions. I stopped when I saw them.
“It’s good to see you on your feet again,” I studied them a moment, slightly surprised at Nate’s toneless words.
“Can I help you with something?” I wasn’t sure what to expect from their sudden appearance at my home, but what they said next was the farthest from what I would’ve thought.
“The East End, the streets are empty,” Nate shook his head, “it’s like everyone just disappeared,” I frowned.
“So you came here?”
“It was wrong,” Jenny’s voice shook, “all wrong.” I studied them a moment, then breathed a heavy sigh.
“I guess I do specialize in ‘wrong’ so, what do you think it is?”
“Pestilence.” I stared at them, “the horseman,” my gaze narrowed.
“He’s a friend of mine, I know what he is,” I growled the words and for a moment I just wanted to collapse into a chair that wasn’t there. “He wouldn’t do this though, he couldn’t even leave his bed last time I saw him.” They stared at me when I fell silent and I tried to think of another option; I couldn’t, not without seeing it, “Show me where you were,” they exchanged worried glances before nodding.
I could feel it before we reached the edge of the East End, the sickness like a thick fog resting over the neighborhood. I didn’t want to believe it, but my instinct told me the same thing Nate and Jenny had. I stopped at one of the doors and knocked, hoping for survivors; no one came. I glanced back, checking for witnesses before I kicked the door in. Immediately we were hit by the acrid stench of the dead and Jenny covered her nose with a handkerchief. Nate followed me inside to where we found the bodies, collapsed in the hall and the kitchen as if they had suddenly succumbed an aggressive and accelerated case of the Black Plague shortly before they died. Nate reached out to examine one of them and my hand shot out to grab his wrist.
“Don’t touch them, they’re still infectious,” he nodded and I let go. The silence that met us back outside was only slightly less disturbing than the one inside had been. “I hate to think of what would cause Alter to do this, but it was definitely him,” I turned to Nate and Jenny as I spoke, “on the upside, if he were still here, the two of you would be dead,” they stared at me a moment before replying.
“I don’t really see how that’s a good thing, we don’t know where he is now,” I nodded slightly.
“True,” I was quiet for a moment, “I’ll go back to my house and see what I can do to find him. I’ll contact you if I hear anything,” it was a lie of course, I would go after Alter alone before risking the slim chance that they found a way to kill him. We said our goodbyes and I began on the long walk home.
"And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
Once again someone was waiting for me on the front step of my house. I paused in my stride a moment when I recognized him as the skin-walker from the docks.
“Well isn’t this a busy day,” I spoke to fill the silence, “What can I help you with?” I paused in thought, “and if you came about the East End, I’m already working on it.” From the confused look he wore, he wasn’t here about the East End.
“What’s happening in the-”
“Nothing,” I cut him off as I moved past to open my door and let us in, “so what can I do for you?” I shut the door behind him and turned to hang my coat on the hook.
“Rakshasa.” That word alone carried enough of a chill to make me pause in my movements, “do you know how to kill one?” I turned slowly and raised an eyebrow.
“Why do you want to know how to kill a Rakshasa?”
“I saw one the other day,” he wore a grim smile, “right before he tried to kill me.” I studied him a moment before replying.
“So you decided to take it upon yourself to suddenly become a hunter?” I couldn’t help but laugh, “and your first target is a Rakshasa.” I shook my head, “tell me where you were attacked and I’ll go kill it.” He shook his head and his lip pulled back into a feral growl.
“It’s mine, just tell me how to kill it.” I nodded slowly, quiet a moment before replying.
“For you? I haven’t the faintest idea how to kill it, at least not permanently,” I paused, “but for me?” I let Delante’s smile find its way to my expression, “that’s a different matter altogether.”
“Arron, are you home then?” I looked toward Castiel as he appeared at the corner and spoke but I shook my head.
“No, sorry Cas. I’m going hunting,” I pulled my coat back down from the hook as I ushered the skin-walker out the door in front of me, “don’t wait up,” I called back to him and was gone before he could voice the confusion in his eyes.
“Who was that? Another demon?” I took my time in turning back to the skin-walker.
“Umm…” I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully, “Angel actually, and just a housemate for the time being,” I trailed off when he gave me a strange look, “It’s a long story. So this Rakshasa, where did it attack you?”
The street we tracked the Rakshasa to stank of Hell when we reached it and the sudden stench sent me into a rather violent coughing fit. I stumbled into one of the walls while I spat the blood from my mouth and growled in frustration.
“Are you sure you should be hunting this thing?” I grinned up at the skin-walker with blood still dripping from the corner of my mouth.
“This is twice now in one day that you’ve asked me a question I didn’t have an answer to,” once again my words were met by a strange look so I shook my head. “This place stinks of Hell,” I muttered the words as I looked for an entrance to the sewer. The skin-walker stared as I pried up the cover I found, at least until the stench of rotting flesh and smoke drifted up to us from below. “Are you sure you want to come with me?” I looked up at him with honest concern but he just nodded his head, so I shrugged, “Suit yourself.” I dropped through the hole and into the water below with a splash that made me cringe. The second splash wasn’t much better and I was fairly certain at this point that the Rakshasa knew that we were coming, it’d have to be a fool not to. All the same we continued in the direction the scent seemed to come from, though in all honesty without the Hounds that was easier said than done and silently I wished that I had brought Keep on this hunt. Maybe he’d have known he was coming. Neither of us had expected him to come from behind, so when the first blow came, he was lost in the dark and I was on my hands and knees coughing again. “Bastard,” I finally spat the word as I climbed back to my feet, steadying myself on the wall.
“Ah, he did rather well for himself in finding you to help,” I could hear the grin in his voice and his leopard red eyes glittered in the dark as a ball of fire ignited in his hand and the sewer tunnels were illuminated, “Delante.” I snarled at him in response and he smiled, “you should show some respect, child.”
“I’ll show respect when I decide you deserve it,” I wiped the blood from my mouth and the fire caught it in its light for the briefest moment.
“You’re not well, are you? Rough night with Lucifer?” Now I smiled back, my eyes turning black.
“What can I say? Even I have my bad days,” I spoke with a nonchalance that came when Delante’s calm slipped over me, “that doesn’t mean that I can’t still tear out your soul.” The Rakshasa slammed the ball of fire into the ground and the skin-walker and I were thrown full force back into the ground a few yards further down the tunnel. “I never got your name,” I spoke quickly and he gave me a strange look.
“Why do you want my name?” I grinned before answering.
“So that I know what to put on your grave if I get you killed.” He gave a breathless laugh at that.
“It’s Adam, Adam Walters,” I nodded as I climbed back to my feet.
“Good to meet you, I’m Arron Masey,” I wore a mad grin, “now if you’ll excuse me, two can play at the game of fire.” I snapped my fingers and they caught black fire.
“I thought you wanted my soul,” the Rakshasa spoke with a feral grin and I matched it.
“I do,” I dropped the ball of fire and the stream of water caught like it was oil, “and I’m taking it by force.” I dove through the flames and tackled the Rakshasa, ignoring the sting of poison as he clawed at my face and neck. The clawing did nothing to hinder me from dragging out a soul that clung to its body as though still conscious, but just like every other soul I’d taken; it eventually formed a glowing, living sphere that just fit in the palm of my hand.
“You’re really her then? Delante?” I looked back at Adam over my shoulder.
“Did you think that a demon could mimic my eyes?” he nodded slightly and I chuckled, “That’s a new one.” I ate the soul as we made our way back to the opening we’d come down through. We shifted the cover back into place and I sighed as the black faded from my eyes and I listened to the temporary silence.
“Thank you for helping me.” I wore a grim smile and nodded, watching him go in silence before I pulled my skeleton watch from my pocket to check the time.
“Sorry Cas, I’m later than I thought,” it clicked closed and I slid it back in my pocket before looking down at myself and breathing another heavy sigh, “and covered in questionable liquids,” I touched my cheek where the skin felt wet and my fingers came away bloody, “and blood.”
“Is that blood?” Castiel’s voice made me jump as I hung my coat back on the hook. I had tried so hard to come in without him hearing, but there he was. “What in the three realms happened to you?” I hesitated as I studied him a moment.
“Rakshasa,” I said it like it explained everything in hopes that he’d drop the subject, but all it did was draw more attention.
“Those are claw marks?” He moved close enough to pull my hair out of the way to get a better look at the claw marks on my neck and face and I froze. “Their claws are poisonous; we need to clean them out.” I was in too much shock to protest as he steered me towards the kitchen and found a rag to use to clean out the cuts.
“I’m alright, really. You don’t need to, I’ll be fine,” I began to protest, to push him away, but he caught my wrist mid-air and fixed me with a cold glare.
“Shut up and quit squirming,” in my surprise that he would say that I snapped my mouth shut and fell silent while he wiped away the blood. After a few minutes of that, I had zoned out until suddenly the cloth burned like nothing I’d ever felt before and I was off of the counter and across the room in a matter of seconds.
“Holy Hell Cas, what did you do to me!?” I shouted in half panic, half anger but he just gave me a calm stare.
“Like it or not, Rakshasa are demons. Holy Water will stop the poison before it spreads.” I glared at him, but I couldn’t argue without giving myself away. “Come back over here.” I hesitated a moment, but then I breathed a heavy sigh and moved back to sit on the counter again. Even when I knew what to expect it still hurt enough to make me grit my teeth and grip the counter with white knuckles. For the second time in the last couple days, I heard Castiel’s quiet laugh and looked up, “You’re like one of the human children, refusing anything that has to do with patching up wounds and when it is forced on you, you sit and pout.” I glared up at him, but my jaw had locked up and made it hard for me to reply. “You should go take a bath,” he set the rag aside and leaned back, “you smell like…” he trailed off, like he couldn’t place it.
“Hell,” I slid off of the counter and started to leave, “thank you, Cas, for helping me,” my voice was quiet but still he smiled.
“Just don’t start bleeding again.” I nodded slightly and gave him a small smile before climbing the stairs to my room for the night.
I woke when I was hit by another coughing fit, one bad enough to make me roll off of the bed trying to find the pitcher of water on my nightstand. I swore when I knocked it over, dumping the contents onto my head as the pitcher fell. I couldn’t stop coughing long enough to swear again when it hit me so I settled on punching the ground in frustration. I didn’t hear the knock on the door as I clawed at my bed and the night stand trying to pull myself back to my feet but a moment later Castiel was helping me to my feet and handing me a hot cup of Honey Tea.
“You shouldn’t have done so much running around yesterday,” his voice sounded miles away as I drank the tea.
“Thank you,” my voice was hoarse and overly quiet, but at least I could hear it clearly.
“No my dear.” My blood ran cold as a chill crept into the room, “do all of the running around you want. Try to save them.” I found Lucifer in one of my chairs, “just remember; you were made for destruction, not salvation.” I was quiet as Castiel told me to go back to sleep, “Be thankful for an empty bed while you have it,” Lucifer smiled, “soon, we’ll be sharing mine once again.” I almost asked Castiel to stay in the room with me, if only to have someone tell me that Lucifer wasn’t there, but then I’d have to tell him everything. I whistled as Castiel turned to go, waiting for Keep to settle at the edge of the bed before I said goodnight.
I woke again around midnight, my hallucinated Lucifer having vanished and Keep sprawled out on the floor. My feet were silent when they touched the ground and for a moment I was thankful that the floor didn’t creak too much despite the house’s age. I pulled on my vest and opened the window to step out onto the small balcony. It took me a moment to decide that with the sickness; just jumping was probably a bad idea. I wedged my foot on the top of the railing and pushed myself off with enough force that I was barely able to catch the branch of the old oak outside. I breathed a sigh of relief once I had pulled myself up and after a moment I was balanced and climbing along the branches to the lowest one I could find. One misstep and I was flat on my back on the ground, coughing up blood once again. Again I swore but no lights came on inside and there was no sudden yelling so once I had caught my breath I climbed to my feet, wiped the blood away and continued on as if nothing had happened. I stopped walking once I came to Este’s door, once again hesitating a moment before I knocked.
“Hey,” I spoke when she answered the door but she seemed to be looking over my shoulder for someone, “I didn’t bring Cas, I’m not even supposed to be out of the house.” She looked disappointed for a moment before she turned and went back into the house. I followed her into her kitchen more slowly.
“I had hoped he could try one of my Canelé, they’re fresh out of the oven,” she paused and wore a brief smirk, “and when did you end up back on the short leash of an Angel?” I watched as she returned to stacking the pastries in a basket, ignoring the comment.
“I have a red hood you could wear on the way to drop them off if you like,” I offered in a moment of bitterness before I inhaled the scent of baked goods and something… not natural. “You didn’t happen to put anything… off recipe in them, did you?” Este’s cat eyes snapped to me and for a moment she simply stared while her cheeks flushed. I shook my head, “give up Este, he’s not who he seems,” I spoke with a warning tone but she glared at me without replying.
“What do you want Arron?” Once again I hesitated before answering.
“Remember a few nights ago, when you led the hunters to my house and I started coughing up blood and rambling on about Lucifer?” She gave me a strange look and nodded slowly. “I was-am hallucinating that he’s here; that night he told me he was coming after us, starting with Alter,” I trailed off as realization crept across her face.
“The East End,” she whispered the words and I nodded.
“If Lucifer gets all of them, the world ends and a rather large portion of the population will be massacred. If he gets me back on a leash,” I shuddered, “there won’t be survivors; just a planet caught black fire.” She studied me a moment, as if waiting for my point, “I need your help,” my voice was quiet, nearly begging.
“Why should I help? Why not just ask Cas?” Now it was my turn to stare.
“I can’t, I told you, he can’t ever know the truth.”
“Why not? Don’t you think it would be good for him to know the entire truth?”
“I can’t tell him,” I cut her off before she could argue, “it would tear him apart,” my voice was quiet again and she studied me.
“How so?” I hesitated a moment before deciding that she would find out eventually and I wanted it to be the truth she heard.
“Hagar,” the name meant nothing to her but to me it explained everything, “if you’re really serious about him, you’ll ask him about Hagar, and then you’ll help him to forget her.” She scoffed at that but the sorrow in my eyes told her that I was serious.
“Because he loved her,” I paused, “and that part of me died when I got the scars,” I pulled up my sleeve so that the scars on my wrist were just visible. We stood in silence too long, so after a moment, I shook my head and turned to leave.
“Arron,” I paused and looked back at her, “this double life you’re leading is going to get you killed,” I gave her a grim smile.
“Only if we’re lucky, besides, it’s too late for me to change what I was created to be,” she shook her head, “does that mean you’ll help then?” For a moment Este said nothing, but then she gave me a slight nod and matched my grim smile.
“What am I to do with a world on fire?”
I couldn’t get back inside my house the same way I left, the lowest branch of the tree was too high up. I paused at the front door, pulling the key Daniel had given me from within my shirt. The lock turned with a click as if a perfect fit but when I opened the door, shadows poured forth from the world on the other side. I let out a whistle and waited a moment as nine Hell Hounds only slightly smaller than Keep climbed out of the dark.
“Hello my dears,” I smiled and closed the door before crouching down as they came to take in my scent, “it’s been a while, hasn’t it.” I surveyed them for a moment before pressing two fingers to the foreheads of the twins, Irael and Isiel. “I need you to find someone for me.” They bared their teeth and I laughed, “we’re not hunting, just tracking. Find Alter.” They whined in disappointment and I watched as their striped forms disappeared into the night. “The rest of you, keep an eye on Ena and the other horsemen.” They started to go but I caught Rhades by the scruff, “not you, you stay here with Keep.” She bared her teeth and my gaze narrowed so she shook herself and whined at me. “Hush,” I growled the word and straightened up, letting go of her scruff before I opened the door, “I’d have thought you’d get tired of running around with them.” I opened the door and put a finger to my lips when she looked up at me again. The hallway was clear when I opened the door, as were the sitting room, library, and study. I breathed a sigh of relief before climbing the stairs to return to bed. I opened the door and found Castiel sitting in the same chair that had earlier been occupied by my hallucinated Lucifer.
“Where have you been?” I stared when he spoke.
“I was-” I stopped, “Does it really matter?” I didn’t have an answer and I was too tired to come up with a decent lie.
“Did you have to jump off of the balcony?” He gestured to the still open door onto the balcony.
“I didn’t jump off the balcony, I climbed down the tree and,” I faltered in my protest, “fell out of it,” I trailed off.
“You weren’t supposed to leave the house.” I glared back at him.
“It’s my house,” I muttered.
“It’s your lungs you keep trying to cough up, too.”
“I’m not going to die,” I growled the words at him, “I haven’t died yet and I’ve had nearly every method of killing attempted on me at least once in my life.” Castiel studied me a moment before shaking his head.
“So then, where were you that you felt the need to climb out the window rather than just tell me that you’re leaving?” I was quiet for a moment as I weighed my answer.
“I was at Este’s.” He raised an eyebrow at me.
“I thought you two didn’t get along.”
“We don’t, but I needed to ask her something,” I paused as I closed the door behind me and shrugged off my vest, “and if some French pastries show up in a basket, or if she brings them in, don’t eat them.” He wore a confused look but I didn’t really want to explain, “I need some sleep, so this is goodnight.” Castiel breathed a heavy sigh upon seeing that there would be no more arguing before he stood and left, giving Rhades the same look of curiosity he’d given me as he passed.
“Goodnight then,” with that final comment, he was gone.
I was up early the next morning, thanks to a sleep filled with nightmares. I was wandering the house trying to kill time when there was a knock at the door. Ena stood on the other side wearing a grim expression with one of my Hounds in her arms with its side torn and bloody.
“Is he one of yours?” I stared for a moment before I replied.
“Yeah, his name is Atelus.” Ena nodded as I took him from her and he bit my vest.
“Lucifer sent his.” My gaze narrowed, “he mimicked yours, and he made a lot of them. Warin disappeared during the fight.” I looked down at Atelus with worry on my face.
“Was he the only one injured?” I made my way to the kitchen with Ena trailing behind.
“Yes.” I breathed a sigh of relief as I set him on the kitchen’s island and turned to find a rag and bandages. Ena told me the details while I cleaned up Atelus’s wounds. I interrupted her with a swear when I saw how deep the claw marks were and turned away. “What?”
“I need to stitch them up.” Atelus gave a quiet whine and I stroked his neck, “I know.” I turned for the needle I kept in one of the drawers.
“You’re patching up a Hell Hound for another Demon.” I turned to find Castiel standing in the doorway, “you should let it die.” I fixed him with a cold glare.
“Keep talking like that and we’ll find out whether or not Angels can survive without a soul,” I growled the words, “seal or no seal.” He watched in silence as I turned back to Atelus and began to stitch the wounds closed. Rhades slipped past Castiel’s leg and reached up to touch noses with Atelus, growling when she saw the needle and thread.
“He is one of yours, isn’t he.” it wasn’t a question but I nodded anyway.
“Cas, meet Atelus,” I paused to bite off the excess thread on the last knot, “and the girl is Rhades.” He studied me a moment before replying.
“How many do you have?”
“Ten.” He nodded slowly.
“Same number as Delante.” I struggled not to react as I washed the blood from my hands.
“Once again,” I turned back to Castiel with silent frustration, “I’m flattered, but I’m not that powerful.” He nodded slowly but I doubted he believed me. I studied him a moment before I spoke up, “my eyes,” he breathed a tired sigh.
“Alright.” I watched him go before I returned to bandaging Atelus’s side
“Liar.” I finished, leaning on the counter and taking a deep breath, “You’re mad, you know that?” I gave Ena a sarcastic smile. “We’re getting picked off one by one and you’ve got an Angel hanging around your house. Don’t you think he could help?” I shook my head and started to speak, but Ena didn’t let me, “you should tell him the truth; tell him everything.”
“I can’t,” I paused as Atelus scrambled off of the counter and ran off after Rhades, “If I tell him, he won’t believe me about Lucifer, he’ll just drag me to Heaven and lock me in the Eternity Box,” my eyes had turned black and my voice became a snarl, “then yes, the world won’t burn but the end will still come.” I stopped and swallowed as I forced myself to take a deep breath before continuing, “I don’t want it to end.” My voice was quiet and Ena was silent for a moment but now she burst out laughing. “Yeah, laugh all you want, the suicidal Demon doesn’t want the world to end,” my tone was bitter but still she smiled.
“Sorry.” I shook my head.
“Go home Ena, you’ve still got two horsemen and yourself to keep an eye on,” she nodded and we said our goodbyes. Este passed her in the door and I frowned, “Did Cas let you in?”
“No,” she spoke slowly, “the door was open.” I nodded slowly.
“Did you need something then?” I studied her, “I don’t see any pastries for Cas,” I spoke jokingly and she slapped me. I was quiet a moment while I rubbed the already scarred claw marks on my cheek. “The Hell was that for?” She glared at me, her cat eyes narrowed.
“That was for Hagar,” Este’s voice was a snarl.
“So he told you then?” She tried to hit me again but I caught her wrist. “Warin is Lucifer’s.” Her eyes widened and her hand relaxed so I let go.
“That explains a lot,” she was quiet as she rubbed her wrist, “I’ve been rather short tempered today.” I started to make some snide remark but Keep, Rhades, and Atelus came charging around the island and I was too busy not getting run over. Atelus slid on the wood floor and crashed skull first into Este, knocking her to the floor. “You mangy mutt,” she hissed the words as he scrambled back and she aimed a kick at his injured side. I was on her in seconds, pinning her to the floor and tearing out her soul.
“Arron, put it back,.” The wisp squirmed in my hand while I kept my eyes lowered and hoped Castiel couldn’t see the black.
“She kicked Atelus,” when I spoke, the black was replaced by a snarl in my voice.
“Put it back,” he spoke slowly, rubbing his temples with one hand, “I can’t leave you alone with her, can I?” I gave him a sarcastic grin.
“Put her soul back Arron, you’ll have a lot of other witches to deal with if you kill her,” he paused, “she’s probably learned her lesson, don’t you think?” I sighed and licked my lips in my disappointment before shoving the soul back into her.
“I really hate you right now,” I muttered the words at Castiel as I stood and Este gasped awake. He just returned my earlier grin so I shook my head and looked down at Este, “You owe me a soul.” She glared at me so I smiled, “kick one of my Hounds again, and I won’t give it back,” I paused, “assuming they don’t tear out your throat first.” I could see the fear in her eyes; it always had been the calm rather than the anger that scared people. Este looked back at Castiel as she smoothed out her skirts.
“Cas,” from her tone, she hoped that he would step in but he just shrugged.
“I told you that he wasn’t who you thought,” I said it with a smile, maybe because Warin had suddenly started affecting me too, but more likely it was because all of the coughing up blood I had been doing lately had put me in a bad mood. As if on cue I started coughing again, and it was getting bad enough to force me onto my hands and knees. I managed to choke out a swear as I wiped the blood from the corner of my mouth.
“You’re getting really bad, aren’t you,” it wasn’t a question, and there was no sympathy in Este’s words when she spoke them. I nodded anyways, breathing hard as I tried to catch my breath, “Even if it is from Lucifer,” she whispered in my ear, “call it karma.” I bared my teeth at her in a silent snarl, knowing that if I reacted, my eyes would change and all of my half-truths and lies would come tumbling down.
“I’m starting to wish I hadn’t listened to you when Jenny and Nate had you locked up,” I smiled as I whispered back, “it would have been like they gift-wrapped your soul for me.” Este smelled of fear as she leaned away from me.
“Miss Demetriou,” Castiel spoke up before either of us could say something else, “as it seems neither of you are going to do anything but go at each other’s throats today, I’d like to ask you to leave.” He was far more polite about it than I would have been.
“It’s her house, if she wants me out of it then she can ask me herself,” I smiled briefly.
“It’s alright Cas, I’ll see her out,” I pulled myself up on the counter as he gave me a slightly bewildered look before turning to leave. I turned to Este as a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth, “you should listen when he asks you to leave; you wouldn’t want me to do it,” my eyes turned black, “because I won’t be as docile.” At the very least I was going to blame my short temper on Warin, even if the rest of the time I’d have to find a different excuse. I followed her out of the kitchen and the Hounds joined me at the door when I stopped to watch her go. It closed with a soft, reassuring click, almost as if promising that I could simply hide away from everything just by leaving it closed. I paused with my back against it and my eyes closed to enjoy the momentary sense of calm.
“Arron,” Castiel broke the silence and I looked up with my normal silver eyes, “is she going to come often?” I shrugged.
“I let her inside once and now it’s like she just comes and goes as she pleases,” he nodded in agreement and I studied him a moment before speaking again, “Did she ask about Hagar?”
“Yes,” he paused, “you told her who she was?”
“Only that you loved her,” it worried me how easily I had slipped into the constant lies. He nodded slowly, “Did you tell her?”
“Yes,” again he paused, “did I hurt her?”
“No, she came and slapped me for another reason,” I spoke sarcastically and he smiled a seemingly honest smile. “What?”
“I said you remind me of her?” I nodded so he continued, “the sarcasm,” he trailed off with a quiet laugh again and I smiled too; I had been right, he had picked it up from me.
“I’m sorry,” he shook his head as if shrugging it off. “Hey, do Angel’s sleep?” Now he really did shrug.
“Occasionally,” he spoke slowly, “why?”
“There’s another empty room down the hall, last door on the left, if you want it,” he studied me in silence and I realized the strangeness to my words. I shrugged, “You said you had to keep an eye on me, something that you can do from anywhere now that you’ve sealed me, and yet you seem to insist on staying here with me,” Keep butted my hip with his head and I put a hand on the wall as I stumbled, “and my menagerie of Hell Hounds,” I spoke with a grin and he smiled. We stood in silence for a long time before I spoke again, “well, it’s up to you.” I pushed myself off of the door and started up the stairs with Keep, Rhades, and Atelus trailing behind.
“You really are like a child,” I paused and leaned over the railing when he spoke, “making light of the strangest things.” My smile was a grim one.
“It’s an act, it’s always an act,” I shook my head and breathed a heavy sigh, “goodnight Cas.” He nodded and lifted his hand in a half wave.
“Goodnight Arron,” a joking smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, “and please don’t climb out the window again.” I simply waved back and continued up the stairs with a quiet laugh.
I hadn’t heard from Isiel and Irael in days and I was beginning to worry. I was pacing the library and muttering to myself while Castiel watched from one of the archways.
“If you keep pacing like that, you’ll wear a hole through your floor,” I nearly jumped out of my skin when he finally spoke.
“Holy Hell,” I paused to catch my breath, “Don’t do that! I’ll start coughing again.” He smirked and I glared, “Oh right, I’d forgotten that that was what you wanted from the start.” For the briefest moment, I could swear it was pain that I saw in his eyes but then it was gone.
“Do you know why you’ve suddenly started coughing up blood?” He seemed to ask out of honest curiosity but I was in a bitter mood so I gave him a smile to match.
“Call it karma,” he glared; apparently he’d heard that part of yesterday’s conversation with Este. I shrugged, “Maybe it has something to do with the Horsemen being taken,” Castiel stared at me.
“That Demon was,” he paused, trying to remember the name, “Ena? Is that why she was here?” I nodded.
“That and Atelus.” I paused, “You really did your research on Delante, didn’t you?” He nodded back but his thoughts were elsewhere as now he began to pace.
“Was it Lucifer?” I was surprised for a moment but still I nodded, “Maybe he could lead us to Delante, then we can take away his strongest weapon and-” I shook my head, cutting him off.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told Ena: if you lock her up then yes the world doesn’t burn, but the end will still come. Let her take care of herself, with any luck she’ll have noticed that the end is coming and she’ll be hiding. It’d just be a waste of time to go after her,” Castiel wore a look of disbelief.
“What makes you think she’d do that?” I couldn’t help but be a little hurt by his words and the look of disbelief on his face.
“Trust me, I’ve met Delante, both sides of her; if the demon were in control the world would already have ended, and not by the means of Revelation.” He studied me a moment before breathing a heavy sigh.
“So we’re supposed to do what, sit and wait?” I shook my head.
“We’re going to stop Lucifer,” he stared at me in disbelief.
“You do realize that that is about as close to a lost cause as possible, right?” I gave him a sad smile.
“So am I,” he continued to stare so I shook my head, “at least we’re trying.” Castiel studied me with a something akin to sympathy in his eyes so I forced a smile. “Even if it is a lost cause, I refuse to sit back and watch as it all ends, it may not seem like it, but I love this world,” he nodded slowly as a grim smile found its way to his face, as well.
“So catching Lucifer it is,” I smiled briefly. “How much time is left?” I shrugged.
“That depends on how quickly he can get his hands on Danny, Fitz, Ena, and…” I caught myself before I could say my own name.
“Delante,” I nodded slightly but my mind had wandered into weighing the possibility that at this point, I could tell him the truth. “Arron,” he waved in front of me and called my name again, “Arron, you still there?” I blinked in surprise and nodded slightly as I shook off the thoughts.
“I was just thinking, if Delante stays hidden then maybe he’ll take longer to end everything. Ena told me something else while she was here: Lucifer will tear apart England for them, but he’ll go to the ends of the world to search for her.” Castiel nodded slowly, and he forced a weak smile.
“Sounds…” he paused as he searched for the word, “romantic?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I would’ve said possessive,” I couldn’t keep the bitterness from my voice when I spoke so now he gave me a questioning look.
“You sound like you speak from experience,” I nodded slightly but remained quiet for a moment.
“I do,” My voice was barely a whisper when I finally replied. I ignored the questioning look he gave me and left the room in an attempt to avoid the conversation. Much to my dismay, he followed me into the hallway.
“Where are your other Hounds? If you have ten,” he trailed off and I sighed; at least he had changed the subject.
“They’re watching Ena’s house,” I paused a moment before climbing the stairs. “Except the twins,” he gave me a strange look so I corrected myself, “Isiel and Irael. They’re out looking for Alter,” again I paused, “and I suppose Warin now as well.” Castiel stood in the doorway of an empty room counting off the Hounds while I picked a pencil up out of the cup that sat next next to a few cans of paint.
“So I know the names of five of them, what about the other five?” I hesitated as I began to draw a portrait of Atelus.
“Why the sudden curiosity?” I asked out of paranoia, but he only shrugged.
“The names seemed familiar,” he said nothing more, nothing to make me suspicious, but still I had a decent idea of where he was going with the comment.
“I’m not her,” I spoke the bitter lie aloud and the heavy silence returned again for our words. He waited, and I could feel his eyes watching me while I resumed my drawing forcing myself not to pay him mind. I suppose my continued silence told him that I wasn’t going to say anything else without it being dragged out of me because finally he spoke.
“You never say her name,” I couldn’t help the chill that ran up my spine at his words and the sudden sense of dread that made my blood run cold caused me to pause in my lines. “Why don’t you ever say her name?” In hindsight I believe the thing I was feeling then was fear, but at the time it was this great nameless thing that crept over me to chill me to the bone and make my hands shake.
“Haven’t I?” My voice was soft as I struggled to keep the tremor from my words when I finally found my voice, “I hadn’t noticed.” I could feel his gaze as he watched me, until finally, I turned to look back at him.
“You always refer to her as ‘her’ or ‘she’,” his voice was low and I hoped that the fear wasn’t visible in my eyes, “never by name.” I shook my head and turned back to the wall for fear that my eyes would change.
“I’m not her,” I repeated the words, my voice low as I tried to force myself to resume my drawing.
“Look me in the eye and say that,” I hesitated a moment pencil hovering millimeters away from the wall before I turned back to him.
“I am not Delante.” I wish that I could say that it was the truth, that like Hagar, Delante had simply been a person who died away when I left behind that time in my life; but it wasn’t the truth. The truth was that Delante would always be there inside me, I would never be able to leave her behind; she was always there, just waiting for me to slip up. He studied me a moment before breathing a heavy sigh.
“I can’t believe you,” he was quiet, his gaze cold, “I can’t tell whether you’re telling me the truth, or just more lies,” those last few words made it feel as though I had been stabbed in the chest. I watched him leave, shutting the door behind him just in time for me to slide down the wall to sit on the floor. Keep chose then to step from the darkness in the corner of the room, baring long sharp teeth at the resident Angel in a silent snarl.
“It’s alright,” I rested my hand on his back, knotting my fingers in his thick fur as he turned to me with worry in his empty eyes, “I can’t really blame him for not trusting me; I have told him very little when it comes to the truth since he came.” I rubbed the fur around the ruff of his neck and gave him a sad smile before closing my eyes and leaning my head back against the wall.
I was painting when Isiel and Irael finally returned. I smiled when I saw them, sticking the paintbrush behind my ear with the others as I crouched in front of them. They sat in front of me and I reached out to scratch behind their ears.
“Did you find him?” My voice seemed slow and miles away when I spoke. I reached again for Isiel’s forehead and he bit down on my hand just hard enough to break the skin. In an instant, I knew everything they had seen and heard while looking for Alter. Just as Ena had said, he had vanished without a trace. I breathed a disappointed sigh and closed my eyes as Isiel let go of my hand. The bite mark healed almost instantly and I ran the hand through my hair; I had hoped for a distraction from the sense of panic that still clung to me. “Well,” I shook my head, “I’ve another person for you to find,” I pressed my fingers to their heads, “find Warin, and continue looking for Alter.” I pulled back a moment before a new thought occurred to me, “If you come across one of Lucifer’s Hounds, follow it.” The twins disappeared back into the dark and I watched them go. I breathed a heavy sigh and leaned back again to study the drying paint that covered half of the wall. After a moment I climbed back to my feet and continuing to paint.
The wall was dark and filled with a rage I couldn’t touch, and I couldn’t quite recollect having painted it. I stared at it from across the room, not really seeing it as in my head I fell back into the cages and fires of Hell. The candles along the walls caught black fire, roaring to life as they cast the room in an even darker light than the wall already had. My eyes turned black and in a moment of seeing red, I threw one of my boots at the wall. I leaned forward to put my head in my lap, running my hands shakily through my hair as I growled a flurry of swear words in Hell’s Latin. Keep leaned in just close enough to lick the back of one of my hands, watching with a wary, empty gaze while I rocked back and forth on the floor.
“I thought you’d have slipped up by now,” I looked up slowing, dreading what I knew I would see. “Just give in to her,” Lucifer crouched beside me with something akin to pity in his expression, though it wasn’t in his eyes. “You know you want to,” he knew, I really did want to give in to Delante, to slip into her cold, dark, calm and simply let her burn… everything. That word alone was enough to snap me out of the temptation and I remembered Este’s words as I looked back up at him.
“What am I to do with a world burned?” He smiled, a glint to his red-gold eyes.
“Rule it with me,” I bared my teeth in a silent snarl, lashing out at him with a hand caught black fire. He vanished in a blur of color, leaving me alone once again in the excessively dark room. I dropped my head into my hands; my eyes closed as the candles went out and left me in a black to match my gaze.
“Arron,” I heard Castiel’s voice from the doorway and my blood ran cold. “I heard something that sounded like Hell’s Latin,” the black faded from my eyes just as I looked up slowly at him. I think that he could tell from the look in my eyes that I didn’t want to talk. For a moment he stood in silence and studied me, but then he shook his head, “alright fine, but at some point here you’re going to have to start telling me the truth.” I studied him with dull grey eyes before I breathed a heavy sigh and nodded slightly, much to his surprise.
“I…” I stopped, swallowed and took out a deep breath before I began again, “I just had a visit from… an old friend,” I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully.
“Old friend?” Castiel matched my tone and moved slowly as he sat down beside me against the wall. I gave him a harsh laugh and forced a smile.
“I say ‘friend,’ but in reality he was more of… a master,” I breathed another heavy sigh, running a hand through my hair as I leaned my head back. “You probably know him; at the very least you know of him,” I looked over at him, “he was one of your brothers after all.” Castiel’s eyes turned to ice at my words, but it wasn’t hatred towards me this time.
“Lucifer,” I nodded but said nothing. I was so close to telling him the truth, but I stopped myself before I could say it. “He was your master?” I winced, the way he said it, it made me remember everything that had happened to me in Hell.
“I was the attack dog,” he studied me.
“Delante,” I dropped my head back into my hands with a grown.
“I hate that name,” I growled the words without realizing what I was saying until it was too late to take them back. I swore under my breath but a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he laughed quietly.
“I’d wondered how long it would take for you to slip up,” I couldn’t help but stare at him, the rage from before rising up again, “I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.” I bared my teeth in a silent snarl, turning away from him to hide my eyes, “You haven’t told me the truth since I came, but I still knew. I met that side of you when I sealed you,” I shook my head, trying to bury myself in the dark as I drew my knees up to my chest, “what was it you said to me? ‘It’s an act, it’s all an act.’” I snapped then, the room’s light fixtures rearing to life with black fire as my eyes changed and I glared at him.
“Abi in malam rem,” I snarled the words, “and if you don’t, I’ll drag you there myself.” He studied me a moment before smiling.
“If I did that, you’d see me every day for the rest of eternity. Would you really want that?” I smiled back.
“If it meant I could watch you burn, it would make everything Lucifer did to me well worth it,” I spoke the words as if they were true, but it was just another lie; I didn’t want him to burn, I wanted him to trust me again. I wanted to be Hagar again. I shook the thought away and took a deep breath as the black faded away and the fires died down to normal light. “Cas,” I looked back up at him, the grief and guilt in my eyes, but couldn’t find the words, “I’m sorry.” I’m not sure why I was apologizing to him, but at the time it seemed like the only thing for me to do.
“All you do is lie, why should now be any different?”
“Because I don’t want the world to end,” I gave him a grim smile, “and that’s what’s coming.”
“When I first met you, you wanted to die,” I nodded.
“I still do,” I paused, “but not until Lucifer gets locked back up in his cage.” He studied me a moment before nodding slightly. “That makes you an executioner,” I smiled, “do you think it’ll turn the rest of your hair black?” He glared at me despite my soft and innocent tone, his eyes once again like ice. Finally he climbed to his feet and left me in the dark, alone. I was always alone; it should have been nothing new to me but this time it was worse, because I’d grown used to him wandering my home. I sighed and leaned my head back against the wall, closing my eyes as I was filled with exhaustion.
I fell asleep at some point while I was sitting against the wall. When I opened my eyes I found myself in a rather elaborate ballroom. I studied the people around me as they danced in their constant, slow-motion circles around the room. Each and every one of them had red, yellow, or snake-green eyes; I was in Hell.
“Delante,” I looked towards the voice and found Lucifer standing beside me. He offered a gloved hand and smiled, “would you care to join me?” I had no control over myself as I took his hand and stood. “I’d like you to meet someone, a…” he paused in thought as we joined the others spinning around the room, “brother of mine.” I couldn’t find my voice when I tried to speak; I could do no more than stare. We made our way to the other end of the room and stopped to find a familiar group of people standing off to the side and drinking champagne while they watched the Demons dance.
“Miss Masey, this is a lovely ball, don’t you think?” I stared at Jenny as she spoke cheerfully.
“Miss Masey,” her brother nodded but he said nothing more in greeting as I was led past. I wanted to speak, to tell them that the Devil himself stood only a few feet away, but when I tried no sound came out. We kept going, just a little bit further, and Adam Walters smiled when he saw me.
“Arron, it’s good to see you again,” he wore a grin that, coupled with the fact that he leaned heavily on the wall, told me he had had quite a few drinks too many. Again I tried to warn him, but Lucifer kept walking so I kept my eyes on the ground.
“Ah, here we are,” I dreaded who I would see when I looked up, and when I saw it, it felt far worse than I had thought it might. “This is Castiel and this young lady is Este Demetriou,” Lucifer said the words with an easy smile, as if he knew exactly how much pain he was causing me. For what felt like eternity, I could do no more than stare at the pair of them.
“Cas,” I finally found a whisper of my voice and it shook when I said his name.
“Arron,” he wore a twisted smile, “did you know that they had a name for you in Heaven as well? Keyo, they called you, it means ‘the whore’,” I finally managed to tear my gaze away as tears welled and I+6 found myself staring at a cage not unlike my own had been.
“Ena,” I said the name and the wolf inside the cage lifted her head to study me with one red and one pale, pale blue eye. She gave a quiet whine and suddenly I was running across the room and on my knees in front of the cage. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered the words as I reached out to touch her husky-like fur, “this is all my fault.” Lucifer rested a hand on my shoulder and, at his cold grip, my blood turned to ice.
“You can stop it,” he whispered the words in my ear and I shivered, “All you have to do, is give in.” I could feel his cold breath on my neck as he continued, “It’d be easy even with two seals, you just have to break them.” My breath caught and instantly I found myself back in my partially painted room, utterly alone. I breathed a sigh of relief and ran my hands through my hair. I sat like that for a while, with Lucifer’s parting words echoing in my head. A shiver ran down my spine at the thought that Delante could be powerful enough to break both seals, so I shook my head and climbed to my feet. The library was empty when I came down the stairs, as was the sitting room. I shook my head as I walked down the hall to the kitchen. I leaned back against the counter a few minutess later with a cup of tea in my hands, inhaling the scent with my eyes closed and trying to ignore the temptation to go knock on Castiel’s door. I looked over at it, just across the hall as I sipped my tea. Once again I shook my head before turning my focus back to my cup of tea.
“If you stare any harder at it, it might catch fire,” his tone was bitter, but when I looked up in my surprise there was no bitterness in his eyes, just a light that I didn’t recognize recognize.
“You’re still here,” my voice was quiet when I finally spoke. He gave a harsh laugh and wore a smirk when I looked up again.
“That’s all you have to say?” I thought about it for a moment before nodding slightly.
“What else can I say?” he shrugged.
“How about ‘I’m sorry’?” I glared at his smirk, my gaze growing dark.
“I already said that,” I paused, “besides, you’re the one that never said you knew. Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to keep from giving myself away?” My voice turned to a growl and he sighed.
“Fair enough,” I studied him in the silence a moment.
“At least it explains the amount of black in your hair,” I muttered the words, my tone bitter, and once again there was a flash of pain in his eyes, almost like regret.
“Arron,” he spoke slowly, his voice low.
“Why do you keep calling me Delante? That’s Hell’s name for me, not Heaven’s,” he closed his eyes and shook his head, as if hoping to avoid the conversation, “They call me Keyo, don’t they?” He stared at me now, surprise in his eyes.
“Who told you about that name?” I laughed briefly at the irony of his question.
“You did,” he looked confused so I grinned before continuing, “in Hell.” From the look on his face, I had raised more questions than I’d answered. “It’s a long story,” I shook my head and finished my tea as silence fell between us.
“What you said before,” Castiel spoke slowly when he finally replied, “about Hagar, was it true?” I studied him a moment before deciding that as much it would hurt him, there was no point in telling him the whole truth, at least not yet. I nodded slowly.
“I’m sorry,” I was quiet, “she was always going to die, they all do.” He nodded slowly, eyes on the floor.
“That’s why I never told her,” he whispered the words before he took a deep breath and looked back up at me, “meanwhile we’re living eternity utterly alone.” A sad smile tugged at the corner of my mouth before I replied.
“Suicide is a sin, you made that quite clear to me,” he shook his head at my smile, pressing the heels of his palms to his eyes.
“Sometimes I wish our Father had made us all without feeling,” I smiled.
“I usually just wish for amnesia,” he studied me a moment before replying.
“I don’t blame you,” from his words, he had an idea of what Lucifer did to me in hell. I had never felt ashamed of anything before, but I suppose it’s simply a matter of never having had the opportunity. I felt it now, and it made me look away from him, back at the empty cup in my hand.
“Of course, if I forgot, then I wouldn’t be who I am; I wouldn’t be able to fight,” I swallowed before I finished, “her.” He raised an eyebrow, studying me a moment while I suddenly decided to find my wood floor to be the most fascinating thing in the world.
“You weren’t lying then, were you?” I blinked in confusion and looked up at him as I swallowed.
“When you told me that you regretted a lot of what you’ve done, and that you’re trying to find a way to make up for it.” He paused briefly, “You also said that you were a lost cause,” I breathed a heavy sigh and looked down at the floor again for a moment while I pieced together my thoughts.
“It’s not just like I’ve got this monster inside, I am the monster, and I’ve done so much wrong; I do so much wrong that now it’s an up-hill battle and one that I’m losing,” I shook my head and took a deep breath, closing my eyes for a second before looking up again, “I can’t give up though, I like this world, I don’t want it to burn.” Castiel studied me a moment, his eyes softening ever so slightly as he thought about my words, but then his smirk returned.
“I think ‘up-hill’ may be an understatement,” I glared at him and opened my mouth to make some snide remark, but he didn’t let me. “You’re one strange Demon,” he spoke with an easy smile so I grinned.
“You’re not one to talk; who ever heard of an Angel falling in love with a human?” Now it was his turn to glare, so I shook my head and set my tea cup on the counter beside me, “Look at us, we’re the black sheep of our respective races, stuck pretty much alone for all eternity; it’s just like you said.” There was sadness in my voice and I wore a grim smile when I said the words. We stood in silence for a while; I suppose we were pondering my words but no matter how many times I repeated them in my head, they only became grimmer.
“We’re not entirely alone,” Castiel finally broke the silence, trying to be the stereotypical Angel; the optimist, “I mean, we’re both ‘black sheep’.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that and he gave me a strange look, “Was that another one of those things that sounds strange?” I nodded while I continued laughing but after a moment I stopped, because he had finally smiled. He started to comment on my sudden confusion, but I had turned my gaze away, into the doorway. Lucifer stood there, smiling at me with a spark in his red-gold eyes.
“Black sheep, my dear? I thought you were a black wolf?” In his eyes I could see the wolf that was locked away with my wings, its paws and eyes burning eternal black fire as it stared back at me. I shook my head, tearing my gaze away as my hands and knees hit the ground and I fell into another coughing fit. “Chaos is coming to your precious world, my dear,” he leaned close again, “and you’re going to be the one to bring it.”
“And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.”
Lucifer’s laughter echoed in my head, drowning out all other sound as I choked on more blood; Castiel had moved to crouch beside me and when he touched my shoulder, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I knew he was speaking to me, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was saying as I looked slowly up at him. For the briefest moment he paused in his words, then he spoke again but all I saw was his soul, twisting and alive inside him. I could feel the hunger rise inside me, making me deaf to his words as I licked my lips in anticipation. I’d never take an Angel’s soul, and now, it’d be so easy. All I had to do was reach out and take it.
“Arron,” Finally his voice broke through Lucifer’s laughter and I jerked my hand back in sudden horror of what I’d been about to do. “Arron, are you alright?” Castiel’s voice betrayed the worry in his eyes and I swallowed.
“Get away from me,” my voice was hoarse and quiet but when he started to protest I bared my teeth in a silent snarl, “get away!” I lashed out at him with fire in my hand and barely missed his head.
“Arron,” he tried again but I had buried my face in my knees and was raking my shaking hands through my hair.
I’m not sure how long I sat there coughing up blood and shaking, like an addict going through a bad withdrawal. I’m not sure how long Castiel sat there with me either, but every time I opened my black eyes, he was still sitting there, staring back. I closed my eyes for longer and longer periods of time until finally; I found that I had drifted off into a rather uncomfortable sleep.
I opened my eyes again to find myself on the sofa in my sitting room. I looked over at the chair beside me to find Daniel studying me with his usual navy gaze filled with a rather unusual curiosity. He blinked once and rested his chin on his interlaced fingers before he finally spoke.
“You can’t see your own soul, can you?” I looked back at the ceiling, avoiding his gaze.
“I can see every unique detail on every soul in the world no matter what the creature,” I began but I didn’t finish; so he did it for me.
“But not your own,” it wasn’t a question this time and the look I gave him confirmed it.
“What are you doing here, anyways?” Daniel wore a brief and rather grim smile.
“You’re Angel friend followed Ena’s trail from her last visit back to the house; he’s quite the tracker, that one,” I gave a harsh laugh at that. “He came banging on the door and out of breath; didn’t even say ‘Hello’, just ‘Help her’.” I covered my eyes with one hand and groaned.
“I was going to tear out his soul,” my voice was quiet as I lifted my hand to watch it shake. “I’m so hungry,” I spoke slowly, tears in my eyes, and Danny nodded.
“I won’t say I understand, souls are just food to me; so bebut to you they’re a drug, they’re addictive. What I can tell you though, why it’s suddenly enough to make you want to steal every soul you see.” I sat up and gave him a questioning look, so he continued, clarifying the sudden spike in my hunger with a single word, “Fitz.” I stared at him a moment before swearing in Hell’s Latin.
“All he needs to do is tie Fitz and I together so that I can’t leave his range of influence, then it wouldn’t matter if he has Alter, Warin, or even you; everyone would die.” Daniel wore a grim smile as I studied him.
“On that note, I have some bad news,” I stared at him while my body tensed, “You’re dying.” When I finally found my voice again I started to speak, but he shook his head, “trust me, Arron, I can see it in your soul. Lucifer is trying to drag you back, so he’s threatening you with death,” he shrugged and gave me a grim smile. “If you weren’t so stubborn, it just might work,” I glared at him but kept my mouth shut as Castiel appeared in the doorway.
“You’re alright then?” he broke the silence and I nodded slightly, sitting up on the edge of the sofa.
“Thank you, both of you,” I faked a smile, “I’ll be alright, just give me a few days.” Daniel gave me a sharp look but I ignored him and he knew me too well to argue, so he sighed and stood up.
“I know it’s probably pointless to tell you this, but try to take it easy, even if it’s just to ease Ena’s worries,” I gave him a slight nod and watched him leave.
“Even he says to take it easy,” I glared when Castiel spoke again with a smirk on his face.
“He also called me stubborn,” he laughed at that and I raised an eyebrow. “What suddenly got you in such a good mood?” He smiled.
“Este stopped by,” he began and I groaned.
“She didn’t bring any pastries did she?” He wore a confused expression and shook his head.
“No, she just came to talk,” I studied him as he continued, “then she started on in some form of ancient Greek and I sort of,” he ran a hand through his white and black hair, “I fell asleep.” I stared at him.
“Greek?” He nodded slightly and I frowned, my brow furrowed and I spoke more to myself than anyone else, “that’s strange, I thought she was French.” I shook away the wild theories that had begun to circulate in my head, “and then what? You woke up like this?”
“Like what?” I shrugged and made a noncommittal gesture in his direction.
“No cold, uncaring personality anymore,” he continued to study me, head tipped slightly to one side in confusion.
“Ouch,” he finally spoke, sounding slightly hurt, and I grimaced.
“Sorry, it’s just… strange. I got used to the typical Angel personality and then suddenly it changes again, it’s just strange,” I repeated the words as if they’d make it change back. But they didn’t, so I shook my head and changed the subject, “So how long was I out?”
“A few hours?” I raised an eyebrow.
“And you suddenly ran off to get Danny because?” I trailed off as he shrugged, giving me a sheepish smile.
“I was worried,” I stared at him, forgetting to hide the surprise that was written plainly across my face.
“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”
“I was worried about you.”
“So let me get this straight, the Angel who earlier wanted me dead without knowing who I was, suddenly became worried about me when I fell asleep on my kitchen floor.” He grimaced at my words but nodded anyways. “Was this before or after the visit from Este?”
“After, why?” He wore a confused look but I just sighed and shook my head.
“I need to go somewhere,” I was quiet as I stood and he perked up immediately.
“I should come, in case you pass out again,” I glared at him as I pulled my coat on.
“I need to go alone,” he frowned so I breathed a heavy sigh, “I’ll bring Keep, he’ll keep an eye on me.” At my words Keep joined me on my way out the door. “I’ll be back in a bit,” I called back and was gone before he could reply.
“Change him back,” I snarled the words when Este answered her door, “whatever spell you put on him, take it off,” She frowned at me, gaze narrowed for a moment before she spoke.
“It’s a perfectly harmless spell, he’s just lost the ability to hide emotions,” she looked me up and down, “a spell that wouldn’t be wasted on you, either.” I ignored the jab as Keep bared sharp teeth.
“Change him back,” I matched his silent snarl.
“No, he’s nicer this way.”
“He’s like a puppy, it’s disturbing,” she looked slightly surprised but I wasn’t sure which part it was at. “Change him back or I will tear out your soul, no matter your redeeming qualities,” I snarled the words, “because Famine is loose and I am this close to stealing every soul within the next ten blocks.” Este was quiet a moment, studying me with cold violet and green eyes.
“Are you sure it’s not just that you don’t like him this way? All I did was make him-”
“Human. You gave an Angel a human’s personality. You can’t just take away what he is and expect him to be the same person.” I growled the words and she gave me an indignant look.
“How would you know?”
“I know him better than you’d think.” She glared at me, sending a chill down my spine.“I’m not changing him back,” I lifted a shaking hand.
“So be it,” the air above my palm sparked and caught black fire, “You leave me no choice, because frankly your soul isn’t worth the hole it’ll put me in.” The temperature in the room dropped and Este’s face paled considerably more than I’d thought possible.
“No,” her voice shook. “Cut off my head or shoot me, but for Heaven’s sake don’t burn me, not with that fire.” Keep backed out of the room with a quiet whine, but I was too focused on Este’s fear to see him. Something moved inside me, something with a power I hadn’t felt in a long time. I licked my lips, tasting the power there, sealed only in ink. ‘You could break them, it’d be so easy.’ A slow smile tugged at the corner of my lips as the voice of temptation echoed from the dark, ‘just give in.’ My eyes turned black as my hand was engulfed in the black fire. I took a step forward and Este stumbled back onto the floor of her home, cat eyes wide. ‘It’d be so easy,’ the voice echoed again and my empty black gaze locked onto Este’s. ‘Just look at her, terrified of you.’ My eyes widened slightly and my hand dropped to my side again, the fire going out. I stared at her as the silver came back to my eyes and I clutched unconsciously at Castiel’s cross where it hung around my neck.
“Change him back,” my voice was low and I left without a reply, leaving her to stare after me in shock.
I can’t say where I ended up after the hour or two of running; not because it’s a secret but because I hadn’t the faintest idea where I was. Perhaps it’s because they’re almost as old as I am, but there was something about the forests around my home that made me feel… safe. When I finally stopped running, I found myself lying comfortably somewhere in the middle of a particularly large oak. If I were asked, and of course felt inclined to tell the truth, I suppose I was hiding from temptation; I was hiding from myself. But I’ve never really felt inclined to tell the truth. I closed my eyes in the silence, however brief. I thought back to what had happened and groaned, pressing my palms against my closed eyes. I’d even scared Keep, causing him to disappear from Este’s house.
“I shouldn’t be having this problem,” I muttered the words and ran a shaking hand through my hair.
“Oh, but you should be,” I voiced my frustration with a snarl at Lucifer’s appearance, “that was the plan, after all.” I sat up on my branch and glared at him across the gap for a moment before replying.
“What do you want?” I growled the words and he smiled.
“I’d have thought that I’d made that clear by now,” my gaze narrowed.
“I’m not going back.”
“Oh yes,” he wore a thoughtful look, “you found a new Angel to stay with. Would you prefer I look like him, then?” His image flickered and changed to Castiel’s and all I could do was stare.
“Damn you,” I finally spoke and he laughed.
“I already am,” he smiled as he changed back. I shook my head and turned away, trying to ignore him until he finally disappeared.
I’m not sure how much longer I sat there, even after it had begun to rain and I was soaked through. I still didn’t move, even though I’d left my coat and vest at home and my shirt and I were soaked through. I was freezing but I didn’t care, I simply sat there in the rain and I hoped that I could die of pneumonia.
“I’d say that you’ll catch your death out here but because that seems to be your endgame, it seems kind of pointless,” my dull gaze found Castiel and Keep standing below the tree.
“What are you doing here?” My voice carried an exhaustion that had settled over me a few hours before.
“I came to get you,” he paused a moment, glancing down at Keep, “Keep got worried about you when it started raining,” my gaze narrowed, but I said nothing at his words. He breathed a heavy sigh, “Alright, yes I was a little worried, but I figured you’d come back eventually,” I smirked and shook my head.
“I take it Este put you back to normal?” He nodded, a brief smile tugging his lips.
“Yes, but not without a rather long rant during which she claimed that you nearly burned her alive.” I cringed but he continued anyway, “Thanks for that, though, I quite like being an Angel.” Now I couldn’t help but laugh and Castiel smiled up at me. “Feeling better, then?” I nodded slightly, “Good, will you be coming down from that tree soon?” He pulled my coat from under his arm, “We brought your coat.” I climbed down the tree slowly, careful not to miss a step.
“Thanks,” I was quiet as I took my coat from him and shrugged it on in hopes of warming up. “Just out of curiosity, did you learn anything from that experience? The being human, I mean,” I finally broke the silence as he began the surprisingly long walk home and he grimaced.
“Yes, plug your ears when Este starts speaking Greek,” I chuckled at that and he studied me out of the corner of his eyes, “why do you ask?” I shrugged as best I could with my shoulders hunched against the now driving rain.
“I was just wondering what it was like, I suppose,” I paused in thought, “I suppose the human version of you would have grown on me, given time,” I gave a harsh laugh, “you did, after all.” I paused again as another thought occurred to me, “What do you think I would’ve been like, had it been me?” Castiel laughed aloud at that, stopping me in my tracks when he finally spoke.
“I think one of two things would have happened had it been you: worst case scenario, the world would have burned; or it would be as simple as all of your lies tumbling down and you becoming quite the damaged person,” I shivered at the idea of that before I found my voice and continued on down the road again.
“Este claimed that that spell wouldn’t be wasted on me,” again he studied me a moment before speaking.
“I think that you’re fine the way you are, as far as Demons go,” I scoffed at that.
“Lovely,” I gave him a weak smile, “that’s not saying much though,” he nodded slightly.
“True enough,” I gave a quiet laugh before we fell back into the silence.
I was getting used to the warmth that had seemed to cling to my home since Castiel had come for me; it was the same that night when we came inside, Keep trailing behind, or at least, it had seemed to be the same warmth when we first stepped inside. I bid Castiel goodnight and climbed the stairs in order to play my old piano, but what I found in my study was an unwelcome surprise. I stopped in the archway, watching as my visitor looked up from the view of my library downstairs.
“Hello Keyo,” I raised an eyebrow in mild surprise at the being that stood at the railing a few feet away, “or do you prefer Delante?” I blinked and shook my head, shaking free of the dread that clawed its way into my mind and forcing myself to let go of the knife in its sheath at my back.
“I prefer Arron,” I slipped back into Delante’s calm, not because I needed the calm, but because I genuinely worried for my own well being; I had finally decided that I wanted to live. “And which brother are you; Messenger, Healer, Guardian, or Guide?” I paused, “or are you one of the others?” The Angel studied me a moment with something akin to disdain in his eyes. Then the smallest of smiles crept across his face.
“I suppose I can’t expect you to recognize us as individuals, my name is Gabriel,” I nodded slightly.
“The Messenger,” he nodded, “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re here for Cas,” he looked slightly confused so I corrected myself, “Castiel.”
“Hey, Arron, who’re you talking to?” I looked back to find Castiel standing at the top of the steps rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“How do you fall asleep that quickly?” He shrugged as he came to join me, “Oh,” he stared at Gabriel for a second, “Gabriel.” I’m not sure what caused him to do it, but at the sight of another Angel, Castiel stepped in front of me, tense and ready, though ready for what I wasn’t sure.
“Cas,” he looked back at me in surprise while Gabriel laughed, “He’s here for you.” I started to turn away, but Gabriel spoke up.
“I’m here for both of you, actually. I came to warn you, if she doesn’t go up, Michael is coming down.” My blood ran cold as I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Do you mind if I have a quick word with my little brother in private?” When I looked back at Gabriel, his gaze had softened slightly. I turned my gaze from him to Castiel, studying him a moment as he ran a hand through his hair before finally I nodded.
“Thank you for the warning,” my voice was quiet as I turned away, but I didn’t go to my room and close the door; I went to the one place I knew I could find solace, if only for a little while.
I know it seems like an odd place for someone like me to go for solace, but within the old church’s doors I had momentary pause in my concern with the dark of the world outside. Of course I knew the peace would always be short lived, because there would always be a part of that darkness within my own soul. I sighed and bowed my head in one of the back pews, running shaking hands through my raven hair as I silently prayed that I would simply wake up from this eternal nightmare I’d been born into, but He remained deaf to my pleas, at least as far as I could ever tell. I continued to sit in the silence and emptiness of the church, hoping for a miracle.
“Excuse me, miss?” I started, looking up in surprise at the priest that stood at the end of the row, “I’ve never seen you in mass before, have you come for His guidance?” I studied him a moment before replying with carefully measured words.
“I only came for the peace,” it wasn’t a complete lie, just more half truths. The man sat down in the pew a short ways away, studying me with questioning eyes.
“If you wish for peace, you should confess,” I laughed at that and made the mistake of running my left hand through my hair, revealing the only true ink I possessed. The man stared in shock, snatching my hand towards him so that he could see the inside of my wrist. “You bear the Devil’s mark.” I bared my teeth in a silent snarl and pulled my hand away in favor of a grip on his throat.
“Why must you Christians turn the beliefs of old into signs of the Devil? This mark,” I raised my hand so that the pentagram was upright, “is a ward against evil, not the mark of evil.” His eyes were wide when I let go of him.
“It’s the pentagram,” I shook my head when he began again.
“No, it was the only thing keeping me from burning the world I had decided to protect.” I stepped back from him, taking a deep breath as I struggled with Delante’s hunger.
“Miss, you’re going to have to leave,” I was deaf to the priest’s words as I stumbled, falling sideways onto the pew and began pulling at my hair. My hands were shaking as my eyes turned black and I caught a glimpse of the priest’s soul as it writhed inside of him. I began to laugh; a breathless and half-mad laugh that made me choke in my restraint. “Miss?” The priest leaned over me, true concern in his eyes; that is until they met mine. He sat down heavily, his gaze filled with fear as I gave another harsh laugh.
“You are a damn fool!” I laughed the words as I rocked, “You see my eyes; do you not realize what they mean?” I laughed again, “Well,” I grinned as the madness consumed my mind, “You’ll soon find out, no?” I reached out for him, just as he began to murmur the words of an exorcism. I laughed again, taking hold of his soul; but before I could tear it out I felt a stanger’s strong grip around my waist.”
“This is the last place I would’ve thought to find you,” I heard his quiet voice in the noise of the madness, then another word, something in Heaven’s Latin I presume, and my world went dark.
When I opened my eyes, it took me a while to get away from the hunger and madness long enough to figure out where I was. Castiel had brought me home, judging by the fact that I had once again found myself staring at the ceiling in my sitting room.
“You’re awake,” my dull gaze turned to Castiel where he stood in the doorway, “I’d started to think I’d used too much.”
“You used Heaven’s Latin,” my voice was hoarse as I spoke and he nodded. I sat up and pressed my palms against my closed eyes as I took a shaky breath. “What happened?”
“I found you at the church and, well, had it not been for the look in your eyes I would’ve thought you had lost yourself,” I looked up briefly in my surprise, all anyone ever saw in her eyes was emptiness, but I shook the thought away as I ran still shaking hands through my hair.
“Fitz,” I was quiet, “he has Fitz.” Castiel sat beside me on the sofa, his voice quiet when he spoke, but I had become deaf to all but the crackle of the fire in the hearth. I was mesmerized by the flames, and as they flickered, the madness returned, bringing with it the hunger.
“Arron,” Castiel spoke my name again and I looked up with black eyes and a half-crazed grin. “Arron?”
“You know, I’ve never tasted an Angel’s soul,” I spoke with Delante’s words, reaching out for his soul as I spoke, “do you think they’re sweeter than the rest?” Then the hunger faltered, if only for a moment, and I caught hold of his shirt instead of the heavenly soul keeping him alive: my irresistible temptation. The grin slipped and in my moment of clarity I pushed him away. “Get away,” my voice shook.
“Arron,” he started to protest but I shook my head.
“Get away from me,” I snarled the words, “before I…” I stopped, running shaky hands through my hair.
“I’m not afraid of-”
“Well I am!” I snapped at him before I pulled my knees to my chest and held my head. “Just go. That’s what Gabriel wanted to tell you, isn’t it? Don’t be here when Michael comes for me?” I didn’t look up while I spoke, I was afraid of what I’d see; of what I’d do, “Just get out.” I growled the words as much at myself as I did him. I had started laughing again by the time he reached the door, my moment of clarity gone while I rocked myself back and forth.
I’m not sure how long it took for me to come back; I couldn’t tell in the madness the difference between day and night. Enough time had passed though, that when the black finally faded from my eyes my house had returned to being cold and empty aside from the hounds. I took a deep breath and pressed my palms to my eyes as I groaned. I stretched out slowly, running my fingers through my hair as I took another deep breath.
“I’m sorry Cas,” I got no reply, though I hadn’t really expected one. I found myself standing outside his door a moment later, hoping that when I knocked he’d still be there. I got no answer, heard no signs of life when I pressed my ear to the door to listen, so I turned away. Despite the fact that the unnatural warmth had already left most of my house, I had still hoped for an answer. I shook my head and climbed the stairs slowly before opening the doors to my balcony. I leaned heavily on the railing as I took a deep breath of the pre-dawn air and stood watching the sunlight creep up past the horizon and through the branches of my oak as I waited for the Archangel visitor. The near silent flutter of wings came when the light finally reached my house and I gave a brief smile; at least some things could be considered consistent.
“Keyo,” I breathed an exasperated sigh.
“I really do despise that name,” I turned to face Michael in a leisurely manner as I continued to lean on the railing, “it implies it was consensual.” I wore a bored expression as I studied him. His hair had no signs of impurity, no streaks of black despite the war, which briefly made me wonder what else Castiel had been hiding. “Normally if I were having this kind of a day I’d go with you in a heartbeat to be locked away or killed; but not today. I’ve got things to do.” I think I surprised him with my words because for the briefest moment, I could see it in his golden eyes.
“Where is my little brother, Castiel?” I was quiet for a moment as I swallowed the lump in my throat and gave him a bored shrug.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” it wasn’t a lie; he had vanished without a trace.
“Good,” he lifted the Claymore from his side and again I sighed.
“You know I could quite easily tear out your soul or burn you away, but I really don’t need more attention from Heaven and I’ve grown quite fond of this house.” I straightened up, stepping forward before I continued, “so long story short, I’m asking politely for you to leave. I’d say that’s pretty nice of me, all things considered.” He started to protest but I tipped my head to one side and wore a wicked smile, “Do you not understand me? I said get. out.” It wasn’t very polite of me, I know, but I had tried polite and now, a few words in Hell’s Latin and Michael was gone. I studied the space a moment before breaking the silence. “As destructive as it tends to be, Hell’s Latin can be almost as useful as Heaven’s.” I muttered the observation and turned to find myself staring at another hallucinated Lucifer.
“You’re becoming the monster you’re trying to avoid,” my expression twisted into an inhuman snarl and I turned away from his image, “You still don’t get it, do you? This monster you’ve been hiding from is what you lost when you left me,” he smiled, “it’s just catching up.” I slouched into one of the chairs as the voice of temptation spoke again from the dark. It’d be so simple to just give in, the smallest of smiles tugged at the corner of my mouth as I listened, to just break the seals and go back to being her. I sat there in the silence, smiling as I remembered the power I had had then.
The sun had set by the time I pulled away from the whispering voice of temptation and I found myself sitting alone in the dark. I shook my head and climbed shakily to my feet after sitting there a moment longer to re-collect myself. I had meant to go to the study to find as much as I could about Lucifer’s cage, but I didn’t even make it down the hall. I found myself doubled over in pain as my body was wracked by another coughing fit. I was on my hands and knees still choking a moment later, staring at the blood that seemed the only color in a world turned black and white. The fits were getting worse and for the first time since Daniel had spoken them to me, his words were driven home: you’re dying. The voice came back, whispering in my ear while I struggled to catch my breath. If you break one, you’ll fight it better, you’ll last longer. It’s just one…The voice trailed off as Lucifer crouched beside me and I rolled onto my back.
“I’ll take it off, all you need to do is come with me,” I bared my teeth in an inhuman snarl.
“Bugger off,” I growled the words at him and his image finally vanished, but it was too late for me, I could already feel the first seal shattering. Just like before, the marks burned white hot and I squeezed my eyes shut against it.
When the pain faded I opened my eyes slowly before I scrambled to my feet and ran back into my room. I stared at my reflection, the black just fading from my eyes as I looked. I pulled my coat off in a hurry and turned to study what was left of the marks along my spine. The black was flaking off like ash from a fire, and I watched as it slowly fell away, leaving behind a pale silvery mark like a beautifully intricate scar. I turned my attention towards my fingertips in a state of panic as my hand caught black fire. You wanted my power, the voice of temptation whispered again and it sent a chill down my spine when I recognized it for what it was, I told you it’d be easy. Delante’s voice brought an involuntary smile to my face as I watched the fire burn, but I closed my eyes and drove the mad, hungry thoughts away. It was the banging on the front door that drew my eyes away from my hand as the fire flickered out. I dropped my hand and took my time going down the stairs to open the door.
“What?” I growled the word when I saw the hunters on my front step and Nate glared in response. My snarl slipped away when I realized that he was half carrying and half dragging his sister as she leaned heavily on him, blood seeping from between her fingers as she gripped her side. For a moment I stood in shock but then Nate’s voice got my attention.
“She needs help,” My gaze snapped to him when he spoke, but there was no emotion in his eyes, only death. For the briefest moment I realized that his gaze held the same emptiness that was always in Delante’s, but I tore my gaze away before I could stick on it.
“I can see that,” I shook myself and stepped back out of the way as they came in. “Take her to the kitchen, I’ll see what I can do,” I shut the front door behind them and started towards the kitchen, but Jenny caught my arm.
“Not you,” her voice was raspy, “Ask the Angel.” At her words I went from ‘mildly inclined to help’ to ‘tempted to kill her myself’ in six seconds flat and with a wide array of emotions and homicidal thoughts in between, but I shook my head and pulled easily out from her grasp.
“I’m sorry, would you prefer I leave you out there in the cold? It looked like it was about to start raining again,” the bitter sarcasm was thick in my voice and I turned back to the kitchen without waiting for a reply. Nate followed, despite Jenny’s continued protests when he lifted her onto the island counter. I started to reach for the torn and bloody portion of her dress, but she struggled enough that I instead took hold of the knife I kept sheathed at my back. It stuck in the wooden countertop with a solid thud just at her eye level and only inches from her face. I leaned over it slowly, silver eyes reflecting the glint of the steel blade, “Keep quiet and hold still lest I cut you on accident.” My voice was low and carried the bitter calm that came with my bad mood. At my words, Jenny lost all signs of consciousness, causing a satisfied smile to tug at my lips. I pulled the knife back from the countertop and used it to cut away the fabric. “Would you mind boiling some water for me?” Nate started to ask about matches but the wood stove ignited before he could speak.
“Alright then,” he began muttering under his breath so I tuned him out as I examined the wound. It wasn’t a common kind of wound, I could tell that much as my brow furrowed in thought. No knife or gun I had ever come across made a wound like the one in Jenny’s side. “Here,” Nate’s voice called my attention away from her as he offered me the pot, the metal burned against my fingertips, but only for a moment as it settled into my hands. I found myself staring at the water as if it were the most precious thing in my life; and I suppose it was in a way, considering everything else lately seemed to crumble at my touch.
“I told you what you already knew,” I tore my gaze from the pot to stare at Lucifer, “You were and always will be a monster.” I bared my teeth at him in a progressively less human snarl, my eyes flooding with black in an instant, “You do see it, don’t you? The monster, it’s in your eyes.” I started to reply, but Nate called my attention away.
“Miss Masey,” I blinked and looked back at him as the black faded, “did I really need to get water for you if you intended to let Jenny bleed out on your counter?” He spoke with an honest indifference and met my dying gaze with a dead one of his own. I swallowed as I found my voice again.
“Keep it up and you’ll start sounding as much a monster as I,” I spoke with a bitter tone as I set the pot beside my knife on the counter.
“My dear, dear monster,” I set my jaw against Lucifer’s unwanted commentary and busied myself with cleaning the blood away from Jenny’s strange wound while doing my best to ignore his continued presence. I reached in the wound with two fingers, gripping whatever had made it between my fingertips before pulling it carefully out to reveal an intricately carved arrowhead that seemed somehow familiar. I shook the sense of dread away and began to stitch Jenny’s would closed, but her blood seemed to eat through the thread like acid. I stared as it happened, the thought occurring to me that the edges of the hole in her dress had been similarly eaten away. “Only one monster can kill like that,” when he voiced my frantic thoughts, I looked up at Lucifer in silent shock for a moment before turning again to Nate, the final pieces clicking into place.
“You found Alter,” my voice was low as I leaned heavily on the counter before me and Nate gave a slight nod, “and you thought it would be a good idea to go after him by yourselves when most humans drop dead simply by walking within 10 miles of him.” It wasn’t a question, but he still nodded. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to keep my voice even. “She was shot while you tried to kill a close friend of mine and yet still you come to my home for help?” My voice was a disbelieving growl as the fire flared up in the stove behind me. Nate seemed entirely confused by the idea that their actions were a terrible idea, so I shook my head and took another deep breath, the fire dying down again. “The better question is how you managed to survive at all,” I muttered the words before pushing the thoughts from my mind.
“Let her go, put her out of her misery if you must, but let her die,” Lucifer whispered in my ear and I opened blackened eyes to find Jenny’s soul squirming inside her. I watched, mesmerized by the white and gold light that seemed to writhe in pain. “You could take it, you know; feed the monster you’ve starved for so long,” Lucifer trailed off and I lifted my knife from the counter. A single slice and my palm bore a thin line of scarlet before I turned it to cover Jenny’s wound. I was hesitant at first, but the more I whispered the words in Hell’s Latin, the stronger my voice became. Nate reached for my arm, trying to pull me away but I caught his wrist in my grip, my thumb wedged between the tendons as I finished the words.
“If you ever try to interrupt me again, I will crush every bone from here to the tips of your fingers,” he swallowed as he nodded slightly and I let the black fade from my eyes. I let go of his wrist and dropped my other hand from Jenny’s wound. The cut sealed itself closed and my blood turned black as it traced a seal around the scar as if it were ink. “I can’t save her, but that should slow it down,” I swallowed, “At least for a little while,” my voice was quiet, the gold that clung to her soul had unnerved me, but now I understood why the two hunters hadn’t died of disease. “I’m sorry, she’s still going to die; you’re both going to die,” I spoke softly as I put together the final pieces. Nate scoffed at that but I shook my head at him, “’When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.’ Revelation, 11:7.” The words felt strange and foreign in when I said them aloud, something I wasn’t used to when speaking.
“It is a strange thing to hear a demon recite Bible verses,” I looked towards the door to find that Michael had found his way back into my house.
“Ah, see? Now you’re misrepresenting me, it’s the demon, as in the first Demon to tell Lucifer to bugger off,” I leaned back against the counter in feigned nonchalance while Nate stood staring at Michael in complete confusion.
“Who’s he?” He finally asked me but I turned to Michael with a smirk.
“They’re your Father’s witnesses, you can tell him.” He glared daggers at me for a moment but I simply grinned wider.
“I am the Archangel Michael, the Sword of God,” I breathed an exasperated sigh and rubbed my temple with one hand.
“What he’s trying to say is that he’s awfully pretentious,” I muttered the words and earned myself another sharp glare.
“You quote the Book but do not practice it. ‘For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Pronounce them guilty, let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against you.’ Psalm 5, Verses 9 and 10.” I smirked and gave him a bored look.
“Yeah well,” my smirk became the wicked grin Delante was so well known for, “with what I am, you can’t honestly be surprised by the state of my soul.” Michael ignored my retort and returned his icy gaze to Nate.
“I was sent to collect Keyo and complete the job Castiel started,” I winced at the mention of Castiel and turned my gaze to the floor.
“Castiel was helping her try to prevent the world from ending,” my gaze snapped to Nate, the surprise written across my face as I studied him. “Jenny and I were as well, along with a witch and a Hell Hound,” he continued and I smirked, my gaze returning to the space a few feet in front of me.
“Quite the menagerie,” I was quiet when I spoke and the words were met by continued silence. After a few more minutes of the uncomfortable silence, Michael began to laugh and Jeny groaned as she began to wake. I stared at him with a mixture of shock and worry in my eyes; the Archangel’s laughter was mildly disconcerting while he still carried his claymore.
“Trying to prevent Revelation?” He laughed, “do you know why we call her Keyo in Heaven? It means ‘Devil’s Whore’,” he wore a cold smile as Nate made the connection and Jenny finally sat up on the counter, “She is the Whore of Babylon,” I felt my stomach turn as he voiced the very thing I’d tried to deny since I’d first heard the name. “Castiel knew this, if he still chose to help you, his punishment is death.” My blood ran cold at Michael’s words.
“He wasn’t helping me,” my voice was low, “he was following me around while he planned a way to take me to the Eternity Box without getting himself killed,” the lie was easier than I would have liked, but it was necessary, and a part of me couldn’t help but proud of how easy it was for me to spin the truth in my favor on such short notice.
“But I thought he-” Jenny began, but I shook my head.
“It was a trick, there’s only one seal,” Nate seemed to realize what I was doing because when Jenny tried again to protest, he dug an elbow into her ribs.
“She’s telling the truth, Castiel told me as much before he left,” he spoke using the same cold and unemotional tone he used normally, “but what I said is true, Arron-” Jenny elbowed him and he corrected himself, “my apologies, Miss Masey is trying to stop the end.” I couldn’t help the brief smirk I wore as I studied Michael’s face.
“So Castiel never helped you in any way, only watched,” my nod confirmed his words.
“We’re at war; it is in Heaven as it is on earth? I’ll go with you, just give me seventy-two hours,” I bargained with Michael as if I were working the cross-roads and eventually, he gave a slight nod.
“Seventy-two hours, no more,” and with those words, Michael sealed the deal and was gone. I let out the breath I’d been holding and Jenny stared at me for a moment before breaking the silence.
“You lied to an Angel,” I shrugged it off with an air of false nonchalance.
“I lie to everyone,” I said it as I turned to pour the rest of the water back into its barrel.
“You made us help you,” I turned back to find that Jenny had taken up my knife in shaky hands and my expression darkened.
“I didn’t make you do anything,” I snapped at her, my voice a growl as I gripped the edge of the counter I leaned on. “Cas is gone,” I spoke slowly now, my voice low as I struggled to keep myself under control with only one seal and no silver, “there’s no point in him dying for what he did.” She didn’t lower the knife so I breathed a heavy sigh and turned back to them. I snatched the blade from her hand, spinning it around so that the blade was pressed to her throat. “Trust me, if I wanted you dead, I’d have done it by now and honestly, at this point it’s a miracle I haven’t yet torn out your soul.” I growled the words before I stepped back and returned the knife to its sheath at my back. “You’ll be alright, at least for a while,” I turned away but she caught my arm.
“Where is Castiel?” I shrugged her off.
“I told him to leave,” with those words I disappeared from the room.
I found myself standing again on Este’s step in need of help. I didn’t knock, instead I paced the step considering how much had happened since the day I’d met Nate and Jenny on the road with Este in the cage. I should have left her there; I should have gotten out of the way and let them go by unhindered. I shoved my hands deeper into my coat pockets and my fingers brushed something soft. I pulled it out, pinched between two fingers as I held it up to the gaslight.
“Strange,” I turned the feather between my fingers and watched as it turned slowly from white to black, “It must be one of Cas’” I studied it a moment longer before pinning it between the pages of my most recent journal. I dropped it back into its pocket inside my coat just as the door opened.
“Oh,” I turned to find Este standing in the doorway wearing one of her more extravagant gowns, “What are you doing here?” I struggled to find my voice again.
“Where are you going?” I couldn’t help the curiosity and she grinned in reply.
“This nice young man from the states asked me to accompany him to The Diaboli Ball,” I’m fairly certain it was my daily choice in clothes that made her elaborate further, “It’s a dance that this Lord who just moved to England has been hosting for the last five years,” I raised an eyebrow.
“And he called it ‘The Devil’s Ball’,” there was no avoiding the skepticism in my voice and she scowled at me.
“You know, if you weren’t so paranoid, this sort of thing could be fun for you.” For a moment I just stood staring at her while I decided whether or not I should remind her of the coming end and the threat from Lucifer, but then another thought occurred to me.
“You’re right,” she looked surprised by my words, “I’ve been so focused on hiding that I never even considered the things that make life supposedly more enjoyable.” For a moment I got no response, but then she had my wrist in her grip and she was pulling me back into her house.
I sat at one of the tables with Este’s date, a young sailor who refused to leave his tigerskin vest behind. While Este danced, we drank; we’d even made a game of it about an hour and a half ago, taking another drink every time she switched partners. Needless to say we were both quite drunk by now. Adam sat now with his head down on the table while I watched Este switch to yet another new partner.
“One more,” Adam groaned while I took another drink, “I’ve no idea why I thought this would be a good idea. I don’t relate to people well and this dress is so tight I can barely breath,” I studied my glass a moment when I paused,pouring myself another and taking another sip, “and the alcohol isn’t even that good,” Adam gave a breathless laugh, as did a man behind me.
“You must be the young woman Miss Demetriou mentioned,” I studied the man with the same distrust with which a mouse might study a cat, “The one who dresses like a man and resides in that old house in the woods.” I nodded slightly as he took a seat in one of the chairs across from me. “I’m Lord Lucius Abel.” Again I nodded, but something about this man made my stomach turn, so I finished my drink and started to stand; to walk away, only to have him pull me back down by the arm; even if I hadn’t been a bit tipsy, his grip was far too strong, “I don’t know your name yet.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. Chances were that Este had told him my name, and he simply ‘asked’ to keep up his appearances.
“It’s Arron Masey,” my voice was quiet enough that the tremor in it couldn’t quite be heard.
“Well then Arron, would you do me the honor of joining me for this dance?”
“No,” again I stood, “I should really be getting home.” He stood, red-gold eyes alight as he stepped closer.
“Then allow me to walk you home.” I couldn’t help the harsh laugh as my gaze narrowed.
“I am quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you,” I struggled to keep the snarl from my voice, “even with the dress.”
“At least let me walk you to the door,” in the amount of time it took him to take my arm in his, I couldn’t think of a valid reason to say no. I looked to Adam, in hopes of some form of help, but he had passed out in his chair. So I followed Lord Abel to the French doors at the front of his manor. “One more thing before you go.” I frowned when he didn’t let go of my arm, “if you keep going as you are, Death will collect your soul while you still have unfinished business.” I pulled out of his grip, my back pressed to the door before I replied, my eyes turning black.
“So be it, at least then I can’t be bothered by you anymore,” I smirked, my head tipped slightly to one side, “Goodbye Lucy.” His eyes flashed red-gold at the use of my old insult to him, but I was out the door before he could turn violent.
I was met by Keep and Rhades at my front door; Atelus had returned to the watch at Ena’s house. I was beginning to feel the sheer helplessness of my situation as I slid down the closed door to sit with my back against it. Keep gave a worried whine and I turned my gaze to him.
“You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” He pressed his head to my chest and I wrapped my arms around it, pressing my forehead to his. I closed my eyes and whispered the words to undo the seal I’d placed on his soul when I first ran from Hell. I sat back again; breathless as I watched the spines stand on end along his back. Ice spread out from the spines to cover his back as his formerly dead eyes seemed to catch with black fire. The horns that sprouted from his head curled around themselves as they grew long again and I smiled as Keep gave another one of his silent snarls and Rhades backed further into the library. I started to speak again, but my body was wracked by another coughing fit before I could get a word out, only made more painful by the corset I still wore. I was doubled over on myself in pain while I rocked in place choking on blood. I managed to choke out a single swear before I swallowed the blood and struggled to stop coughing. Keep curled around me and I clung to his thick coat as I leaned heavily into him. Then I grinned as Delante’s darkness bled into my eyes, blood dripping from the corners of my mouth as I began to laugh. It wasn’t the same blinding pain, like the white hot burning that it was before, I didn’t even think of breaking it. I grinned as I felt my wings shatter the ink that had sealed them away for so many years, and as my eyes were consumed by black I felt the old familiar sense of icy calm flood my subconscious.
I’m not sure what happened after that, I only remember Delante’s eerie laughter echoing through my house, and then the darkness that swallowed me whole. When I opened my eyes again, the sun’s rays were just reaching the edge of my bed. I sat up quickly and groaned as my world spun and pain shot through my temples, though whether from a hangover or from the second broken seal, I couldn’t quite be sure. Keep breathed a heavy sigh from where he lay curled much of the way around the side of my bed and I looked down at him in mild surprise.
“What did I do last night?” He lifted his head to study me, a certain intelligence to his burning eyes. “Nothing problematic, right?” He gave me a wolfish grin and I breathed a sigh of relief. “And nobody came by with an emergency?” I took his silence as a good sign before I climbed off the bed and struggled out of the now quite rumpled dress.
“It was good to see you.” I looked back at the image of Lucifer that stood behind me and frowned.
“I can’t get a break from you, can I?” My voice sounded miles away as I reached for the tie in the back of the corset I still wore. “If you weren’t simply a very annoying hallucination I might ask you to make yourself useful,” I looked away in hopes that he would disappear. My blood ran cold when I felt someone tug the tie free and the corset loosen. I looked back in shock, half ready to burn the stranger away; but it wasn’t a stranger and I stared in shock as Castiel stepped back and turned his back to me. “Thanks,” I finally found my voice as I hurriedly moved behind the screen that stood in the corner of my room.
“I take it you went to that dance that Este was talking about?” I peered over the top of the screen at him, eyebrow raised.
“You talked to Este?” He shrugged as he examined the dress.
“She talked, I left about halfway through her conversation,” he looked up at me with a blank gaze, “I noticed a distinct lack of ink on your back,” he trailed off and I blinked in surprise with a slight tinge of embarrassment at his comment.
“That’s kind of a complicated story,” he nodded slightly, looking over at Keep as the hound sat up beside him.
“And Keep seems to have grown quite a bit,” I looked up from the countless skirts again as Keep bared his teeth at him. A near imperceptible smile tugged at the corner of Castiel’s lips and he ruffled the fur on Keep’s head before dropping the dress back onto my bed.
“Were you there?” He looked slightly confused by the question. “At the dance.” He nodded in understanding as I shrugged on a fresh shirt and pants.
“Where were you?” I smirked.
“I was sitting at the table with the kid that was passed out in his chair,” his gaze narrowed at me in a confused look so I gave him a pained smile without explaining as I stepped out from behind the screen again.
“You looked nice in a skirt, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I recognised you,” I stared at him a moment before finding my words.
“You are terrible at not saying things that sound strange,” he blinked in surprise.
“It was a compliment,” he protested but I shook my head.
“Don’t,” I paused, “It makes it sound like you’re human.” He stared at me a moment before shaking his head. For a while we just stood in silence, as if we could think of nothing to say, but then I broke it, “Why’d you come back?” He was quiet a moment before finally replying.
“I had nothing to do.” I blinked and he chuckled, “I was just like my brothers before, perfectly content with simply doing my job, which mostly consisted of sitting around watching the humans, but after I met you,” he shrugged, “I’m restless,” his voice was soft, almost as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself. I studied him a moment in the silence again.
“I have sixty-five hours left to stop Lucifer,” he looked slightly confused so I continued, “Michael paid me a visit, that was the deal we made.” Another smirk flashed across his expression as he studied me.
“You talked an Archangel into a deal with the first Demon? You’re really quite something.” I swallowed, my eyes on Keep, “he said you knew who I was.” I trailed off and Castiel gave me a strange look, “Keyo.” He nodded, completely silent for a moment before he finally spoke.
“I knew.” I shook my head slightly as I tried to put together a reason he might still agree to help.
“If you help me, in any way, he will kill you.” He gave me a nonchalant shrug.
“I’m okay with that,” he wore a sad smile, “maybe I’ll see Hagar again.” I shook my head and started to tell him no, but Keep’s ears pricked and he disappeared out the door. Curiosity won out and I followed him down to my front door. At first I couldn’t figure out why he stared at the door expectantly, but then there was a sound like something scratching and I felt a chill run down my spine.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
I answered the door after a moment’s hesitation to find Atelus supporting a black and white wolf with intelligent and very familiar blood red and pale blue eyes. I dropped to my knees and hugged Ena despite the fact that her coat was soaked through, because I could guess why she’d come.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered the words to her as Castiel came slowly down the stairs behind me, “this is all my fault.” My voice was quiet, barely audible over the pouring rain.
“Arron.” I looked up at Castiel, tears welling in my eyes, “she’s bleeding.” I turned my gaze back to Ena as I lifted one hand to find the palm of my hand slick with scarlet blood. Maybe Castiel actually wanted to help, or maybe he really did have a death wish, but after watching me sit unmoving, my gaze locked onto the blood for a while, he rested a hand on my shoulder before crouching down and lifting Ena’s Wolf form from my lap. I watched him disappear around the corner in the hall before turning my attention to Atelus. The other Hell Hounds had gathered around him and I gave them a grim smile.
“Sonzael,” I reached for one of the Hounds and let him rest his muzzle in my hands before I spoke, “find the twins and tell them to come home.” His eyes seemed to turn to living blood as he flexed his bony claws and I smiled, “bring them home.” I let go of his muzzle before his image blurred and disappeared. The other Hounds stood studying me, they knew we were fighting an impossible battle, I could see it in their eyes. I stood and pushed the front door closed before pulling the small black key from under my shirt. It turned with a near silent click in the lock and once again I opened the door into another side of the world, the one with living shadows. “Go,” I stepped out of the way, but for a moment the hounds just stared at me, “Ito,” I spoke the word again in irrefutable Hell’s Latin and the hounds growled at me their disagreement but still, they did as they were told. I watched as one by one they disappeared into the near liquid dark. Keep bared his teeth at me when I turned to find him still sitting beside me. I studied him a moment before breathing a heavy sigh, “Fine, you can stay.” There was a growl and a rather strange sound almost like a crash from the kitchen and I followed the hall to the open doorway. Castiel stood with his back pressed hard against the counter while Ena stood on the counter, teeth bared and hackles raised as her claws tried to dig into the wooden counter. It was the blood that dripped from Castiel’s hand that made me stop and stare. “What happened?” He looked over at me in surprise before answering slowly.
“She bit me,” he lifted his hand so that I could see the puncture wounds in the back of it and I looked back at Ena in mild surprise with the hint of a prideful smirk playing across my face.
“What did you do?” He shrugged, a slight indignace in his expression.
“I was just trying to clean the wounds.” I blinked, studying him a moment before gently taking hold of the scruff of her neck.
“It’s the water.” He looked down at the rag in his good hand, a look of understanding slipping into his eyes. Under my hand, Ena’s fur lay flat and she lay back down on the counter. “Go ahead,” I nodded to Castiel as I stroked Ena’s muzzle with gentle fingers. At his touch she gave me a wary look but I forced myself to give her a grim smile, bracing myself as I waited for what I knew would come. Castiel hurried to finish cleaning Ena’s wounds, flinching visibly when she bit down hard on my hand, the blood running into my sleeve and staining it red. There was an apology in her eyes but once again I smiled, “It’s alright,” I whispered the words, stroking her muzzle before I glanced up to find Castiel staring at me. “What?” He shook his head and busied himself with Ena’s bandages.
“Nothing really,” he spoke slowly once he had finished and she let go of my hand, the wound healing almost instantly. “It’s just that, what you did just now, it reminded me of something Hagar would do,” I swallowed and Ena gave me a quiet whine. “It was like she knew the pain that the animal was going through.” I said nothing at first; I had no words to answer him, so I looked back at Ena where she lay on the counter. I leaned over her after a moment and stroked her fur again.
“Sleep,” I whispered the word into her ear in Hell’s Latin and watched as her eyes drifted closed. “I’d imagine,” my voice was soft as I straightened up, keeping my gaze on her, “that it was because she did know it.” He stared at me in surprise, but I said nothing more as my gaze shifted to his hand. “Let me see your hand,” he started to protest but I caught hold of his wrist and studied the bite mark.
“It’ll be fine,” I pressed my thumb very deliberately into the back of his hand between the holes and he jerked out of my grip.
“Yeah, completely fine,” my voice was thick with sarcasm and I caught hold of his hand again. The damp rag I took from the counter singed my skin and I grit my teeth as I rinsed it and used it to clean away the blood, then I turned and dragged a chair around the island to him. “You might want to sit down, this’ll probably be especially painful for you,” he started to ask what I was talking about, but my eyes turned black and my fingertips caught fire before he could get the words out to do so. In the amount of time it took Castiel to sit down and to pull out of my grip, I had cauterized the bite marks in both sides of his hand. The fire flickered out and I turned to lift the roll of bandages from the counter where he’d left it. He sat staring at the back of his hand as a thin layer of ice spread from the wounds and part of the way up his forearm.
“Thanks,” his voice was quiet when he finally spoke again and, though there was still a hint of pain in his voice, he sounded like it was much better than it had been. I nodded slightly as I wrapped his hand expertly and then pulled another chair from the other side of the island.
“If Ena came to me alone, it can only mean that Daniel was taken,” I cast a worried glance toward Ena’s sleeping form and breathed a heavy sigh as I raked my pianist’s fingers through my thick, raven hair. “I’m starting to think the Eternity Box would have been the better idea.” Castiel shook his head when I broke the long and uncomfortable silence.
“No, because then none of this would have happened while someone could still stop it,” he paused, “and I would have continued to think that every monster out there was no different than the rest.” I stared at him a moment before reaching out to run my fingers through his hair. He pulled back from my hand, but not before I could see that much of his hair had turned black.
“Keep it up and you’ll have the same kind of dark soul as Lucifer.” He glared at my teasing tone a moment but said nothing in reply, instead simply shaking his head. “So,” I broke the silence again when it fell a second time, “what do you know about the Devil’s Pit?”
Castiel knew no more than I could find in my vast collection of books, except that Lucifer was to burn in a lake of fire. I smiled when he told me that, causing him quite a bit of worry, judging from the look on his face when the wicked grin spread across my expression. We only had sixty-two hours left and we were no closer than before, the only progress we’d been able to make being the discovery that Lucifer was in town, and that had been nothing more than a stroke of luck. I started to stand, to go and see if Sonzael had returned with the twins, but Castiel caught hold of my arm without moving in his seat.
“You know what your being Keyo means for you, right?” He kept his gaze on my empty chair as he spoke, his voice quiet. I nodded and flashed a smile as I said what would probably be the last lie I would ever tell.
“I’ll be okay,” I matched his soft tone when I spoke.
“Sophistry.” I stared at Castiel in complete shock.
“What?” I choked on the word as I struggled to wrap my mind around what he’d said.
“I said sophistry,” now he met my gaze, his alight with a spark of fire I didn’t quite recognize, “Don’t lie to me about something so simple. You’re dying, either by fire or by whatever Lucifer did to you, it doesn’t really matter, but you will not going to be okay this time.” His frustration bled into his words and for the first time in my life, I was at a complete loss for a response, sarcastic or otherwise.
“Fine then,” I swallowed, “There’s really only one thing I can say now,” my grim smile returned and he gave me a questioning look, “I’ll see you in Hell.” I left before he could reply but I could swear I saw him smirk as I turned away.
Sonzael and the twins gave me the same criticizing growls as the others had, but eventually they joined the rest of the pack in the world of shadows on the other side of the door. I stood in the silence for a few minutes with Keep at my side as I stared into the black. I saw nothing in the dark, but when my eyes changed to match it, a small smile tugged at the corner of my mouth for the briefest moment as I saw countless pairs of glowing white eyes staring back at me. I looked over at Keep when he gave me a quiet whine and I gave him a grim smile.
“It’d be so much easier,” I reached out to touch the invisible wall between worlds sending a ripple across its surface, “to just disappear.” He gave another quiet whine and I breathed a heavy sigh, “yes I suppose you’re right,” I looked down at him again and let my hand drop back to my side, “as troublesome as they might be, I’ve grown to quite like some humans.” He bared his teeth at me and I smiled briefly before closing the door and letting the key slip back under my shirt. I started to turn away from the door, but I was stopped by a rather insistent knocking. I found Este on my step when I opened the front door and for a moment I simply stood studying her with a bored expression. “If I were to just slam this door in your face, would you continue to insist on coming back, or would you finally leave me alone?” For a moment she just stared at me in surprise, but then her frown returned and she pushed past me into the entryway. “Or you can just keep coming right in. You’re like a bad habit, I let you in once and you just keep coming back.” I muttered the words as I closed the door behind her.
“You left me at the ball, by myself with that poor kid passed out at the table,” I shrugged as she turned back to scold me, ignoring my fulminating as if it were simply background noise.
“He wouldn’t have been that drunk if you could manage to stick with one dance partner for a whole song, let alone the entire night.” She gave me a sharp glare and I shook my head, “I’m sorry, but I ran into a rather unsavory old acquaintance at that ball so yes, I left in a bit of a hurry and didn’t think that I needed to check out with you.” She raised an eyebrow in curiosity, completely oblivious to the thick sarcasm in my words.
“Really? Who was that?”
“The host.” Her eyes went wide and I couldn’t help my smirk.
“You mean Lord Lucius Abel?” She wore an easy smile and my own ran away in an instant, “he’s so charming though, and handsome, I don’t know how you could consider him so unsavory,” she trailed off when my gaze narrowed in disbelief.
“You honestly don’t see the connection? Lucius? Lucifer? Did you not see his eyes? It was called The Diaboli Ball for Christ’s sake!” She simply continued to stare blankly at me so I shook my head, my eyes turning black as I pinched the bridge of my nose between two fingers, “Your host at the rather aptly named ball last night was Lucifer, as in the Lucifer.” Este shook her head slowly in disbelief before realization found its way to her expression.
“Oh dear,” I nodded and trailed a few steps behind as Este wandered into the sitting room. I watched as she collapsed into an armchair before breaking the silence.
“Why did you come?” She wore a blank, innocent expression that made me nervous for some reason I couldn’t quite pin down.
“To figure out why you left without me.” My gaze narrowed slightly at her words.
“Alright then,” I started to leave, “you know where the door is, do me a favor and don’t come back anytime soon.”
“Wait!” I stopped in the archway, not turning to look back, “I saw something last night at the party.” The sense of dread that her words bore sent a chill down my spine, “it was a cage, big enough to fit a tiger, or a large wolf.” I shook my head and started off again but she had more, “and there was something else,” I turned slightly towards her, “I saw you burn.” My blood ran cold at her words but I didn’t move a muscle except to dig my nails into my palms. For a moment I stood in the silence, searching for my voice before I replied through grit teeth.
“You’re a bit late to the party on that one, Este,” my voice was soft and I wore a grim smile, “I’m going to go check on someone.” I didn’t wait for a reply, I just disappeared.
Ena was awake and sitting in a kitchen chair. She clung to the blanket that was wrapped around her and she shook as she wept silent tears for everyone she’d lost; everyone I’d cost her. For a moment I simply stood watching from the doorway, afraid to speak; afraid she might blame me as much as I did. Castiel stood in the corner, rubbing his bandaged hand with his thumb and watching Ena with a wary eye. I breathed a heavy sigh and he looked up at me in quiet surprise.
“Arron.” At my name, Ena’s gaze found mine and I felt a sense of hopelessness and guilt flood my mind as I took an unconscious step back. As she watched me, I could see her voice and in her amber eyes; I was drowning in it all. ‘What were you thinking?’ ‘Who are you that you thought you could save any of them?’ ‘You sacrificed your only friends for nothing.’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘It’s all your fault…’
The voice changed in my head to match who really spoke: the naïve young demon who sat playing a grim tune on the ancient piano and dreaming of the things she’d never really have, things like freedom, normalcy, and love: such human things... For a moment I found myself there with her in that room; in the cage, so I asked her: ‘Why do you say such cruel things to me?’ She studied me with cold black eyes that didn’t match her face. ‘I speak the truth alone.’ I stared at her in disbelief and started to reply but she vanished, leaving behind only the ancient piano. ‘Where did you go?’ I called into the nothingness on a whim and was met by my own light laugh before she replied: ‘I grew up.’ I blinked and found myself staring at a version of me that wore a wolfish grin, blood dripping from the corners of my mouth and his infernal number on my forehead.
“Arron.” I blinked again and found myself back in my kitchen as Ena called my name with a soft voice. I looked back at her again, eyes filled with indescribable grief. “I’m sorry I bit you.” I shook my head slightly and swallowed the lump in my throat.
“When I told you about Lucifer, why didn’t you talk me out of fighting?” She gave me a grim smile. “It’s my fault they’re gone.”
“I couldn’t talk you out of anything no matter how hard I had tried.” I shook my head but she continued, “Even if Lucifer promised that he wouldn’t take them if he had you, he lied; he always lies. He’d have lock us all away like his circus animals while this world and Hell became one and the same.” Her words conjured an unwelcome image of black fire, ice, and inescapable cages to mind and I couldn’t help but stare at her uncharacteristically blunt tone.
“But I couldn’t stop it, it’s still going to end,” I was quiet, struggling to keep from throwing something across the room in my welling frustration.
“It’s not over yet,” Castiel finally spoke from his place in the corner and Ena nodded slightly, “Heaven’s still silent.” I stared at him a moment before I actually understood his words.
“I can’t.” He gave me a grim smile.
“But you’ll try.” I nodded slowly.
“And it’s not like you’ll be alone,” Ena smiled and in lighter times, I would have laughed; her words reminded me of Castiel’s on the day we met again, it seemed so long ago now, so far out of reach. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair.
“Then I need a way to lock Lucifer’s cage up again. One that doesn’t involve death preferably but that seems to be fairly inevitable for me,” I was trying to make light of the subject, as much for my sake as anyone else’s but Castiel’s warning gaze turned cold and Ena frowned at me. “Fifty-eight,” my voice was quiet and Ena wore a slightly confused look at my words. Castiel wore a look of worry that I hadn’t seen since before Hagar had ‘died’, but I shook the thought away. “Would you go get Ena some clothes? I need to go deal with an unwanted guest.” He nodded slightly after a moment’s silent debate and Ena climbed silently to her feet as I turned and returned to the sitting room. Este was pacing the floor as if deep in thought, so I paused to watch. She was speaking some form of ancient Greek and I had opened my mouth to ask why when the world around us seemed to be torn apart.
The first impact knocked me forward into the room and I struggled to my hands and knees as the supports of my old home groaned around us. The second impact knocked my senses into oblivion and it took me longer than I cared to admit for me to realize that the flickering light around us was flames. In my moment of obscurity I wondered if my home would have burned as brightly without all of my books inside it. It was the third impact that made me scramble back to my feet, suddenly snapping back to reality as the house began to collapse. The ceiling above our heads began to cave and I tackled Este out of the way as part of it crashed to the ground. I was on my feet again a moment later.
“Get out!” I shouted to be heard over the sounds of breaking wood and collapsing supports, but I didn’t wait to see what Este actually did; I was already down the hall and at the stairs by the time she had even gotten to her feet. I stumbled up the stairs two at a time and crashed through my bedroom door shoulder first. Ena, now fully clothed, was pulling herself back to her feet with one of the cabinet doors that lined that side of the room while Castiel groaned from where he had landed when the floor collapsed into the painted room below. “Cas,” he squinted up at me through the dust that hung in the air, “you alright?”
“Just bruised a bit,” he spoke with a slightly stunned groan as I did a visual check of Ena before making my way around the edge of the room. I pulled open the balcony doors and saw the cause of the impacts; the stars were falling one by one from a sky stained red as the blood of millions. Heaven was silent no longer, it seemed.
“Ena,” I called her over after I recovered from the initial shock of the sight outside and she made her way over to me on the narrow edge of the room. The balcony itself had been hit directly and now, there was nothing recognizable left of it, but it didn’t matter any more; none of it did. “Jump,” she didn’t protest; didn’t insist on staying with me, she knew what was happening and she knew how it would end. So instead, Ena just hugged me.
“Thank you.” I frowned and started to ask why, “for showing me a different way; the way out of that life.” I gave her a sad smile and watched her jump. She never looked back as she disappeared into the trees, though I hadn’t expected her to, it would be too painful for her if she had. I found myself thinking back to the first time I saw her after I’d escaped Hell. Had I known then what was coming, I would never have let go. I shook my head and turned back to the hole in the floor; as nice as it’d be, I wouldn’t solve anything by reminiscing. I got down on my hands and knees at the edge and peered into the dark.
“Cas,” I called down but the dark seemed to have grown. I reached down, “Take my hand.” Something took my hand, something cold; something that chilled me to the bone. It pulled me down and I tumbled into the only room in my home that didn’t yet seem to have been touched by the fire. I crashed into what was formerly my bedroom floor and began coughing up blood as I struggled to my feet. “Cas?” My voice was hoarse when I called again. I caught a glimpse of something that moved in the shadows of the room, but the red gold eyes that glittered from the dark didn’t belong to Castiel. “Lucifer,” my voice was a growl, “what did you-” I crashed through the wall into the hallway with the flick of his wrist and a smile.
“I don’t like when my children misbehave, my little pet,” Lucifer stepped through the hole as I sat up with a groan and grit teeth. Despite the pain, I couldn’t help my harsh laugh at his words.
“Is that what I am? Your child? The rest of us thought I was nothing more than a whore to you,” I growled the words as I climbed to my feet. He waved a hand again and I was smashed through another wall and a bookshelf, sliding to a stop amongst piles of burning books and the wooden remains of bookcases. Lucifer didn’t follow me through the hole this time. Instead he stood with his back to me as he studied a rather beat up looking Castiel with a cold gaze.
“You could join me, little brother,” Lucifer’s voice was wicked with calm and false warmth; he was a honeytrap and I had long ago grown sick of listening to him talk. I struggled to my feet and crept up behind him, drawing my hunting knife from its sheath at my back, “I could give you anything you want.” Castiel shook his head; his eyes alight with a fire despite his white knuckled grip on his limp arm.
“The only thing I want,” his tone was measured and a weak smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, “is death.” Lucifer growled at that.
“You forget, I taught you all of your little tricks,” he turned away from Castiel and drove his hand through my chest. I’m not sure what kind of trick he was referring to, but I could swear there was something akin to shock in his eyes when he saw that it wasn’t there. “Delante?” I grinned, my own blood dripping from the corners of my mouth.
“There is no trick.” He pulled his hand out and I dropped to my knees, nearly choking on my next words, “There is only fate and her defyers.” The silver cross that Castiel had given me slid out of my shirt, catching the light of the fire. Lucifer caught hold of it with now bloody fingers.
“You were sealed again,” it wasn’t a question, and he dragged me back to my feet by a handful of my hair. “Show me his eyes.” I’m not sure why he didn’t make the connection before he climbed into my head, with Castiel living in my house. I couldn’t fight it; he saw everything that had happened to me since I’d escaped Hell. He saw my work as the Angel of Death and he saw Abram, Sarai, and Ishmael. He saw the day I locked my Hounds away, and the day I’d first hunted Este Demetriou. He saw the carriage that ran me over and had this whole mess began. He saw me waking up to Castiel and Keep on the side of a London road and I pulled painfully back out of his grip, squeezing my eyes shut because I knew what was coming next. “Open your eyes,” his voice was low, calm enough to send a chill down my spine. The old fear came over me and I couldn’t fight it, I opened my eyes; blue eyes. “Castiel.” I blinked and the color was gone as if it had never been. Lucifer’s eyes flashed and the fire between Castiel and us burned with a new life. “I’d have thought that after the last seal, you wouldn’t have done it again.” I pulled the cross from his grip, ignoring the fact that the silver burned my fingers as I bared sharp teeth at him in a silent snarl.
“After last time?”
“You lost your home-” I cut him off with a harsh laugh before his twisted sense of logic could take him any further.
“Hell was not my home,” I spoke through grit teeth, “this place was my home, and now you’re burning it to the ground. The pain I went through escaping was worth it, it got me away from you!” Lucifer’s eyes came to life with a fire that would normally have silenced me before I could say more, but I didn’t care anymore. “To think that you thought your creations would love you,” my voice became a snarl, “that you could be loved,” my laugh was harsh, “I was nothing more than an attack dog and a whore to you and all three realms knew it. The only thing I liked about my life then,” a wicked grin tugged at the corner of my mouth, “was when I was here, because even if I had to kill some poor, possibly innocent fool of a monster, at least I didn’t have to deal with you for a while.” I don’t think I was even considering the possible consequences that could come from those words; I just knew that it felt good to finally be able to say them to his face. Lucifer grabbed me by the arm and threw me, luckily, through two archways and, rather unluckily, into the stone chimney of the fire place in my sitting room. He started to follow me through the rubble but Keep chose then to appear seemingly from nowhere and throw his full 507 pounds at Lucifer. I allowed myself a sigh of relief as they went down, Keep’s massive jaws viciously snapping at Lucifer’s throat with sharp teeth.
“You.” I tore my gaze away from the fire and Keep’s hulking shape as he tried to tear off Lucifer’s head. Este stood to one side of the wreckage, unfazed by the destruction and the flames around her.
“What the Hell is wrong with you, Este? I told you to get out of here!” I shouted the words at her as I struggled to my feet.
“You have to die.” I stared at her as my home became a living inferno around us. Her eyes blazed, alight with the belief that her words carried. “You have to die,” she repeated the words as she began to weave a spell in the air and light in front of her, murmuring the words in an ancient form of Greek as she lifted her hand and the ground began to split at my feet. It opened wider as I tried to move away but my body had suddenly begun to weigh more than I could bear and I feared that I might tumble into the darkness that seemed so eager to swallow me whole.
“Este,” I struggled to speak but my words were lost on her, she wasn’t the witch I had come to know anymore. Her cat eyes seemed to glint with gold as she approached.
“It is written in the books that you must die today,” she gave me a wicked cat’s grin, “it’s nothing personal.” I couldn’t bring myself to believe her; the whole thing felt extremely personal and I started to say as much, but I didn’t get the chance. I stared as blood suddenly began to bloom from around the point of a wooden stake in the fabric of her already tattered gown. Este looked up slowly from the stake. Her eyes met mine and for that moment, time seemed to stand still. Blood began to run from her mouth and I stared as she fell to her knees, her gaze mirroring the shock in my own. I watched her eyes roll closed as she slid to ground, blood staining her light hair red as it pooled on the wood floor. In that moment, the world was silent, despite the inferno that raged around us and the ground that still trembled with the last echoes of what had become Este’s final spell. Nate let go of the stake in Este’s back as I slid to my knees on solid ground and he looked over at me with his usual dead gaze, seemingly oblivious to the blood that splattered his face.
“What did she mean by ‘the books’?” I swallowed my voice and started to shrug; to point out that this wasn’t the time for such questions even if I had an answer, but then the earth gave one final tremor and he and Este’s body disappeared in the dust, fire, and debris as what was left of the ceiling and roof collapsed into the room. I choked on the ash that had filled the air and looked up through the hole of my roof at the sky as the sun began to set. Great, raven colored wings spread from the ink on my back and with one powerful downward thrust they had carried me through the hole and into the air above my home. As I drifted in lazy circles around my home, I was tempted to run, to just let my wings carry me to some remote place where I’d never be found. The cold wind that carried the scent of smoke and death was the thing that finally made it clear to me: there was no more running away. Este was dead. My home was being torn apart. Castiel and Keep had both been lost somewhere in the destruction. My life was burning in the library. The point of no return had been the moment I left Hell. I folded my wings in and started to fall, using them only to steer myself home. The wind and smoke stung my face and tore my hair from its untidy knot as I dove. I didn’t use my wings to slow me down as I neared the roof; I used them to turn myself feet first and then folded them back away into the ink. The impact sent pain shooting up my legs and the roof collapsed from under the force of my dive. I landed on the floor of the hallway in a less than graceful manner and pressed a hand against the hole in my chest as it ached painfully.
“Lucy,” I called out into the dark in a sing song tone but I was only met with silence. “Cas?” In an instant my tone turned serious, maybe even a tad worried, but still I got no reply. A ball of black fire sparked and came to life in the air above my palm and I used the flames to patch the hole in my chest before using it to light my search of what was left of my home in hopes of finding signs of life, no matter friend or foe. I found Jenny at the end of the hallway just outside Castiel’s door. She was weeping, clutching Nate’s body to her chest. He’d been torn open by the claws of something easily five times the size of Keep. From the looks of Jenny’s wounds, she wasn’t far behind her brother. I hesitated a moment before I used the last of my mercy, stepping up to rest a hand on her shoulder and silently remove the seal I’d placed on the wound from Alter’s arrow to keep the poison from spreading. She looked up at me and I watched her eyes as all of her grief and all of her pain slid away into death. I didn’t feel sorry for them; I guess that should have been my first hint but at the time I assumed it was because I knew they’d wake up and be alright, even if I never saw them again. I carried their bodies out through a hole in Castiel’s room and laid them side by side under my oak tree. When I climbed back through the hole and into the house I couldn’t find Castiel, which I took to be a mostly good sign, and Keep gave no reply when I whistled for him. “If you hurt them Lucy,” I grinned wider as I called into the black of the ruins of my house, “I swear to God that I will make you wish you’d never made me.” That should have been my second clue, the madness that consumed my thoughts, but I didn’t notice anymore; I didn’t care to keep track. I heard was the sound of bones breaking and cracking as they reshaped themselves into a beast I’d thought long extinct. I saw the dark shape as it moved in the dark, but I couldn’t yet tell what it was. All When I turned towards it, I found myself staring into a set of enormous red gold eyes that matched a snake’s. As I stared into the dark at him, I heard him move again, the occasional ink black scale catching the light of the fires. If I hadn’t known who it was, hadn’t recognized those eyes, I’d have been fascinated by such a beast as this; but I had recognized those eyes. We both knew more fire wouldn’t work, but even then I didn’t expect where the next blow came from; I couldn’t see his tail until it was about to hit me. I crashed through a wall and through the side of my house, knocking down multiple trees before I hit the ground and bounced to a stop against another tree. I staggered slowly to my feet and spat blood from my mouth as I held myself up on the tree. I didn’t get the chance to catch my breath before the wyrm climbed through the hole after me. I ran. What else could I do? I wasn't meant to be the one who defeated Lucifer, that was Jesus's job. And besides, I was supposed to be dead by now. I shook the thoughts away and ran as fast as I could manage with my injuries and without having the faintest idea of where I was going or what I'd do when I got there. I didn't slow down until the sound of Lucifer crashing through the trees had quieted with the distance but even then I didn't stop. The trees suddenly cleared and a few seconds later I had splashed a few paces into the shallows of a small lake. It was then that I realized that I'd been running further into my property. I doubled over to catch my breath and took a moment to be glad I hadn't been running towards civilization. I let out a whistle and hoped to God that Keep would hear it and be alright. If I had believed that it would do me any good, I would have gotten down on my knees and prayed. But I'm a demon, and what would I say? Let the world not end? It was His book, Lucifer was only a means to an end. Despite everything I was and everything I’d lived through, or perhaps because of it, I dropped to my knees anyway. To say that my faith was shaky would be a bit of an understatement. I knew God was real, but there is a difference between knowing and believing and after everything I’d lived through, I found it difficult to have real faith. I had often told myself that God had a plan and I had a part in it, if only in the apocalypse; I’d tell myself that I was one of His soldiers, I’d just started on the wrong side. I told myself that because, though I didn’t believe it, I needed to believe it. I needed to believe that I wasn’t just Hell’s overglorified attack dog, because that thought alone was enough to send me plummeting into a grief driven madness. All of that worry crossed my mind as I was closing my eyes and, as I opened my mouth to whisper a prayer, I was stuck. I had no idea what I of all people would pray for. Let my friends go on unharmed? It was far too late for that. Please let me live? I didn’t want to live anymore, I was tired, and that set of thoughts in themselves were a sin. So I opened my eyes and stared through my hands at the forest floor beyond them as I struggled with my heart and soul. Then I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again. “I know that it’s been a long time, and after everything I’ve done, the chances of You hearing me is probably pretty slim, and frankly I couldn’t really blame You if you decided to ignore me,” I swallowed my nerves, “but I need help. You’re two witnesses are lying dead under my oak tree, Cas-” I stopped and corrected myself, “Castiel is missing, I haven’t the faintest idea where Your Son is, and I’m about to die a probably long and painful death. I’m not going to ask that You let me live, I’ve made peace with my fate. Please, I beg though, that You grant me the strength and courage to slow Lucifer down enough that not everyone dies. These people aren’t always good, I know that, but some of them give everything they have, however little that may be, to help others. Your people preach forgiveness and mercy, they say that You’re loving and kind. So I beg of You, give them another chance. They can change. Then do whatever You like with me. I tried my best to protect them, I’m done. In Your Son’s name I pray, Amen.” I swallowed and opened my eyes, looking up at the stars as I climbed back to my feet, “thank You, for giving me hope when I needed it most in my life.” I breathed a heavy sigh and looked back at the trees, listening to the sound of my own death as it grew near, and I waited. Castiel limped out of the trees, leaning on Keep as they moved slowly towards me. "Cas," I ran to meet them and gave Castiel a hug that surprised us both, "I thought he'd killed you." I let go after a few seconds and pressed my forehead to Keep's in a silent greeting. "Thanks for saving me, Keep," I whispered the words to him and I could swear he gave me a wolfish grin as I pulled away.
"The Rivers'?" Castiel's voice barely broke the silence and I shook my head.
"They're both dead for the time being," I hesitated a moment before I continued, "Este is as well." He nodded slowly and breathed a heavy sigh. "Is there any chance either of you would listen if I told you to run?" Keep bared his teeth at me in a silent snarl and Castiel shook his head, his gaze cold as ice. I can't say that I hadn't expected that response but I had honestly hoped that they would leave. I ran my fingers through my hair and was momentarily struck by a sense of great loss in that I would never play the piano again; how strange, the thoughts one sometimes has when they know they’re going to die. As I turned back towards the oncoming wyrm and the last of the trees between us fell only centimeters from where I stood, a grim tune began to echo in my head. That was the third and final sign; I had never needed more than three. I knew the fires and the destruction that would come next and despite that, or perhaps because of that, a wicked grin tugged at the corner of my mouth and the spark of madness gleamed in my silver eyes. He himself had said that I had been created for destruction, it was only fitting. Lucifer stopped in front of me and I held his unblinking red gold gaze. The world around us was silent, and for the moment it seemed to be only he and I on the lakeshore. Time seemed to move in slow motion as I drew my kindjal again from its sheath at my back, the sound of metal on leather the only sound in the dark. I can't say what in the three realms I was thinking; I can't honestly say that I even knew what I was doing. Lucifer inhaled, his head rising up as his snake like body coiled behind him. When he exhaled again, he exhaled fire and I threw up a hand to block it, black fire leaping up from the ground to form a wall in front of me and swallowing the flames. I was no dragon slayer, I'd never even seen one of the beasts before that night, so how I expected myself to deal with this one was beyond me.
"Arron!" Castiel shouted to be heard over the roar of the flames and I looked back from my wall of fire, "It's the witnesses, ‘he shall be broken without human means’!" My gaze narrowed at his attempt at helpfulness and I bared my teeth at him in an inhuman snarl.
"They're dead, Cas, they aren't going to be defeating anyone," I growled the words back at him and he started to protest but I didn't let him, "We don't have three and a half days to wait, so unless you see a miracle or another translation of that verse," I trailed off and for a moment he simply stared at me, but finally he gave a slight nod and a weak smile.
"I suppose it's good that you broke the seals then," I gave him a wolfish grin and turned back to Lucifer. The wyrm paused in his onslaught and I let the fire wall died down. I smiled up at him from behind my raven hair and lifted a hand. All around us, the shadows erupted into black fire and closed us off from the rest of the world. Lucifer whipped around again and I was sent skipping across the lake's surface like a stone. I sank like a stone, too when I stopped, struggling to get my head back above the surface as I felt my lungs begin to fill with water. Keep swam out to me, taking the back of my shirt in his teeth and pulling me to the surface. I put an arm over his back and gave him an exhausted smile.
"All of those years wandering around with nothing to do, you'd think that I'd have learned how to swim at some point," I muttered the words and he bared his teeth at me in agreement. We made our way to the shore as Castiel used a tree as a fire shield while Lucifer tried to burn him. A chill ran up my spine when I saw the hate those snake like eyes, but I couldn't tell if it was from fear or from the chill in the air that came with the ice that spread from the black fire. I shook myself and scooped up a decent sized rock from the shallows. I tossed it up once, my eyes flashing like steel as it caught black fire and hovered above the palm of my hand. "Oi!" I chucked the rock hard and fast at Lucifer's head in order to get his attention as I shouted the words, "I'm not dead yet!" He seemed to study me in the silence, his head tipped slightly to one side. I plucked up a few more rocks, "You kidnap and kill my friends. You maul my Hounds." Keep growled his agreement at that one. "You burn my home to the ground. You kept me locked up in a cage when you weren't using me," with everything I listed, I threw another rock caught fire until he stood in human form a few paces away. He closed the gap in a few long strides and hit me so hard that it snapped my head around and made my jaw ache immediately.
"I gave you life, you insolent little-" I punched him before he could finish, the fire that licked out from between my fingers singeing his cheekbone. He turned back to me as if in slow motion and I watched as the frost spread out over the side of his face from the burn.
"You gave me an existence Hell, not life." Keep matched the snarl in my voice as I continued, "No one gave me life; I took it when I got out." Lucifer smiled, which was in itself disconcerting, but it was the icy light in his eye as he waved a hand and sent me flying into Castiel's tree that was enough to make my blood run cold.
"Is there a plan anywhere in this madness?" Castiel moved out of hiding and offered me a hand. I hesitated a moment before taking it.
"A plan?" He nodded slightly as he pulled me to my feet, "I'm sort of... making it up as I go along." A knife stuck in the tree between us, centimeters from where my hand had been while I was leaning on it. "For now," I continued as I pulled the knife from the tree, "I need to find my kindjal." Castiel pulled a short sword from somewhere in his coat and offered it to me hilt first.
“I’ll find your kindjal, but until then,” he pressed the blade into my free hand but it burned like a combination of holy water and silver. I started to protest against both the pain and the idea of leaving him unarmed, but he took hold of the back of my neck in his hand and murmured a few quick words in Heaven’s Latin. Then he pressed his lips to my forehead in a silent kiss and let go, disappearing through the trees. It took me a moment to recollect myself before I turned slowly back to Lucifer, a blade in each hand. All of my fear was gone as my pain melted away and my mind went blank as the music in my head fell silent. I threw Lucifer’s knife back at him with deadly accuracy but he dodged aside at the last second. I swung the second blade across at his neck but again he moved, the blade just clipping the vein before he sent me skidding back into a tree.
“I remember you being stronger than this,” Lucifer walked slowly towards me, but I didn’t see him. I had collapsed onto my hands and knees, head down, “It’s a shame really, your power used to be so beautiful.” My impact with the tree had thrown me into another coughing fit and I struggled to catch my breath without choking on the blood, “Your time here must have softened you up quite a bit.” Lucifer grabbed a handful of my hair and dragged me to my feet, “I told you that you were coming with me,” his voice was low and he started to drag me away but Castiel’s knife was still in my hand. The blade punched into Lucifer’s back and I drove it up to the hilt into him. I pulled it out as quickly as I’d driven it in and now I twisted painfully out of his grip to watch as he staggered away from me. The wound wasn’t going to kill him, but it would slow him down and I could feel my grip on my own life slipping; I was done, there was nothing left that I could do. I dropped to my knees, the Angel’s blade dripping the Devil’s blood as it slid from my fingers into the rocky sand. I fell sideways, my world spinning away as I hit the ground. Keep’s blood chilling howl broke the silence and a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth; I’d never heard him speak before, and the thought struck me that his voice was beautiful. I blinked in what felt like slow motion and the Hell Hound was blocking me from Lucifer, teeth bared and hackles raised. Lucifer stood, staring into Keep’s black fire eyes, his hand pressed against the wound though the blood continued to seep from between his fingers. I blinked again as I felt Daniel’s icy grip close around my soul.
“Arron!” Castiel’s voice echoed from somewhere I couldn’t place and again I wore a mad smile; he’d gotten his first wish after all, “I take it back!” His words echoed in the silence and I groaned; squeezing my eyes shut.
‘Arron.’ I wanted to tell the voice to shut up and let me die in peace, but I’d lost my words when I lost my sight. ‘I don’t want your soul,’ Daniel’s voice echoed again in my head and I frowned. ‘I don’t want your soul,’ he repeated the words and I felt his fingers slip away again. All at once I seemed to come back to life. The pain of all of my injuries flooded over me and I felt my injuries begin to mend themselves in fast forward as the sickness was stolen away from my soul. I could hear Lucifer wrestling with Keep again while Castiel tried desperately to wake me up.
“Cas,” I breathed the name with a barely audible voice and he leaned closer to me, trying to hear what I said next, “turn around and no matter what happens, don’t look.” I didn’t hear his reply over her laughter as I finally gave in, but I knew I didn’t want him to see. I sat down at the grand piano inside my mind and smiled Delante’s wicked grin. As I pressed the first few keys, I sat up and opened my eyes; cold, black, empty eyes.
12: Keyo (Original)
"I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement."
Time seemed to slow, my vision sharpening despite the dark. I could feel the veins of every leaf in every tree and the flicker and change of colour in every flame. The fires roared higher with a new life, but I kept my gaze on the ground. Keep backed away from Lucifer, blood trickling down his shoulder and matting his fur to his side as he moved to stand behind me. I was grinning, my teeth bloody and my own blood dripping from the corners of my mouth. I wasn’t drunk with the blood; I was drunk with the madness that consumed my mind. Lucifer stared, watching me as I lifted my kindjal from the ground where Castiel had dropped it, the singing of the blade against stone the only sound in the silence. My movements were slow and measured as I climbed to my feet and ran my fingers along the edge of the blade. At my touch, the black blade ignited with black fire, frost spreading down over the hilt.
“Delante.” I took a relaxed stance and smiled up at Lucifer from behind my raven hair.
“Keyo,” Castiel said the name in a hushed voice and I turned slightly, looking back over my shoulder at him where he still sat on the ground.
“Do me a favor Castiel, get your siblings to stop calling me Keyo, it’s extremely inaccurate.” He gave me a weak smile and I turned back to Lucifer. He and Lucifer were right though, I had become the very monster I had spent so many years hiding from.
“Come with me,” Lucifer offered me a hand with an easy smile as he spoke, “Come watch the world burn with me,” it was my one last chance. I reached out slowly, hesitating a moment before I took his hand.
But it wasn’t her that had reached out to him like it once had been, it was me. My grip was iron as I dragged him into me and drove the blade of my kindjal into his stomach up to the hilt, the blade sticking out of his back on the other side.
“I’d rather die.” I held him close enough to whisper the words in his ear and spoke softly, “and I’ll be taking you with me.” Lucifer pulled off the blade and I let go of him as he backed out of my grip, his hand instantly going to the new wound.
“You can’t kill me,” I grinned at his words, “I won’t die.”
“You’re forgetting something,” he stepped back again, “we threw the rules out the window the day you took Alter.” I wasn’t angry when I slashed at him with the kindjal, it wasn’t with hatred that I lashed out at him; I’m not sure what it was, not really. I didn’t care anymore. The melody that I played in my head grew louder; each key played was another heartbeat that became another fluid movement, the rhythm growing faster as I did. Or perhaps I grew faster as the music did. It was a beautifully grim melody and it saddened me that the last piano I would play was the one in my head. So I took that sadness and poured it into the music, I poured in everything: my home and life burning, the loss of Este even though she’d been trying to kill me, the first deaths of the Rivers, Adam Walters passed out at the Diaboli Ball, my love of my Hell Hounds, Ena, the story of Castiel and Hagar, my love of my son whether in the beginning I’d wanted to have him or not, the pain and loss of my life. I poured all of it into the piano and into everything I did in that moment. The blows came faster and harder as the black fire roared up into an inferno around us. Lucifer’s defense began to waver. The flames licked higher and higher, swallowing up the night until Lucifer was on the ground in front of me, scrambling backwards as quickly as he could manage. There was a heavy thud behind me and Keep pulled on the edge of my tattered shirt with sharp teeth. I turned and the melody; my heart stopped when I saw what I had done. There was no blood; perhaps that was what made my stomach turn, the unmistakable signature of black fire. In my frenzy, I had forgotten that Lucifer wasn’t the only Angel there. Castiel lay where he had collapsed in the dirt, most of his body covered in frost and burns. The burns were healing quickly but the damage was already done; that was the dark beauty of black fire, it burned away even the soul. I forgot about Lucifer momentarily as the black faded from my eyes and I was left running over to Castiel in the deafening silence. My knees hit the ground, sliding in the sand before I pulled him across my lap and he gave me a weak smile. “Cas,” I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat, “I’m so sorry Cas, I never should have dragged you into this, I should have just gone with you to the Eternity Box.” Castiel smiled.
“It’s alright, Arron, I’ll be fine.” I didn’t have it in me to smile back.
“Sophistry.” He gave a breathless laugh and, after a moment, I laughed too, despite the tears that welled in my eyes.
“I guess we know whether or not an Angel will survive without a soul now.” I gave him a brief smile, “I wonder if I’ll see Hagar again.” My smile slipped as he trailed off, his eyes drifting closed as I shook my head.
“Oh Cas,” I forced a smile, “She won’t be there.” He frowned at me.
“Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” I chuckled.
“No Cas, I mean it.” He opened his eyes to study me, “I’m sorry; I couldn’t tell you. I knew it would hurt you; I didn’t want to hurt you anymore, but I can’t watch you die with this ridiculous false hope.”
“Arron,” his voice was low, a warning, but I didn’t listen, I just kept talking.
“I lied to you, I told you that she died, but she can’t die, not really. Yes, that part of me did die when I slit my wrists, but I didn’t actually die,” Castiel stared at me as I trailed off. “I’m sorry, I had no right to lie to you after everything you did for me. I spent so long hoping and praying for a miracle; you were my miracle, Cas. All over again.” I broke the silence for a few seconds before I lost my words again. It seemed an eternity before Castiel finally reacted. If it weren’t for the fact that he was still breathing, however shallowly, I’d have thought he died. Then, a sad smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he lifted the weight of the silence.
“I’m sorry that I left,” he took a deep, shaky breath, “and that I didn’t give you a chance this time around.” I started to reply, to argue with him, but instead his eyes drifted closed and I watched as his soul flickered out. I closed my eyes and told myself to breath, wiping away the tears that had begun to fall from them and containing the mixture of emotions that flooded me. Keep licked my hand to drag me back from the verge of drowning and I opened my eyes to the silence. As I laid Castiel’s body back on the ground I slipped back into Delante’s icy embrace. I needed her calm and her hunger, because at least then I felt something. I stood and turned slowly back to Lucifer, the blade of my kindjal singing death as I lifted it slowly from the ground. The piano returned to fill the silence as Lucifer smiled at me, red-gold eyes glittering.
“I tried to warn you, I told you that you were created for destruction. What did you expect?” Normally, his words would have been enough to send me into a blind rage, but I was empty. I had closed my eyes to the world outside and returned to the piano in my head. I closed my eyes and stood in the silence, letting the music and the darkness fill me. I felt the blade rather than heard it whistle through the air and flung my free hand up to catch it. I took my time opening my eyes to study Lucifer with a cold, dark gaze. The blade of Castiel’s knife burned the palm of my hand and set the blood pumping through my veins on fire as it dripped down into my ragged shirt sleeve and stained it a deeper red as I jerked it from his hand. Lucifer stared at me, something akin to fear in his red gold gaze. I flipped the blade around in my hand and the hilt became slick with my blood. He tried to hit me with another blade produced from God knows where but I knocked it aside with one of the two blades I now held. I drove Castiel’s knife between Lucifer’s ribs and twisted it up, tearing open his lungs. He pulled away from me and I let go of the blade in favor of my kindjal. The music played louder and faster, drowning out the world as it filled my mind with hatred and sadness, fear and happiness, with everything I had ever felt in all my years of being; but I was still empty. I wanted Lucifer to bleed; I wanted to hurt him like he had hurt me. I didn’t want his soul, I wanted him to burn. It was that desire in the silence of Delante’s madness that sparked her anger and her addiction to fire, that suddenly flared up and filled me again. I didn’t want to steal his twisted soul, I wanted to watch him burn away. I caught hold of Lucifer’s throat and slammed him into one of the trees that burned on the edge of the clearing. He cried out in pain as his back was singed and in his outcry I was thrown back, skipping across the surface of the lake again. I didn’t panic this time, I let myself collapse into the water, closing my eyes to the cold embrace. Keep didn’t need to come for me this time because Lucifer had waded out after me and his fingers closed around my throat. When he pulled me up so that my feet no longer reached the lake’s bottom, I gave him a wicked grin. “Why are you smiling?” The frustration bled into his voice as he growled the words.
“You said my time here had made me soft,” my grin widened slightly, “really it was just a matter of having one thing left to lose.” My voice turned low and cold, “Well, he’s dead now.”
“It doesn’t matter,” his voice turned bitter and he shook his head, breathing a heavy sigh, “if you won’t join me, then I’ll have to settle for watching you die.” His words almost made me laugh at the irony of it all; he had been the one to make me as durable as I was. His grip tightened and I felt myself running out of air as his fingernails bit into my skin but still I grinned wider. I caught hold of his forearm with both hands, my own nails drawing blood that dripped down into the lake water. Then I spoke.
“You’re in a lake,” my voice was soft as my eyes darkened slightly and the black fire raged closer to the edge of the water, “and water doesn’t stop black fire. Wherever you run now, your soul will burn,” I spoke the exquisite words so simply. Lucifer’s eyes widened slightly and I smiled at the look of fear that flickered in his eyes. The fire licked into the shallows and ignited the water’s surface like it was covered in oil. Lucifer let go of me in a panic and scrambled to get out of the water, but I tightened my grip on his arm as my feet hit the ground and I gasped for air. I wasn’t going to let him escape no matter what he tried, I was going to watch him burn. We were swallowed by the inferno and I watched as his soul was eaten away by the black fire before I let go, only catching a glimpse of the light leaving his eyes as I turned to drag myself back to shore. The fire in the trees had died down so that there was nothing left to prevent my gaze from finding Castiel’s body. The tears returned to well in my eyes and with them came all of my torments. Keep gave a quiet whine from by my side before he moved to stand beside Castiel’s body. I watched in the grim silence as he nosed Castiel’s hand and tugged lightly on his coat, trying to wake him up. I felt the lump begin again to form in my throat and I tore my gaze away; I turned my back to him, because I couldn’t stop the tears anymore. I fell heavily to my knees at the edge of the lake, the black fire flickering behind my eyes as they faded back to silver. I stared into the flames as the silence began again to weigh down on me. My stomach was in knots as I tried and failed again to swallow my tears. I wasn’t dead, but after everything that had happened I couldn’t help but wish I was. I didn’t understand any of it; I was supposed to be dead, not Castiel and not Este. I doubled over, raking my shaking hands through my hair as the first tears fell. I felt numb as my stomach twisted again and found new ways to make me feel sick. I didn’t care that my seventy two hours had run out, and I didn’t hear the quiet flutter of wings, but I knew Michael had come for me when he rested a strong hand on my shoulder.
“Your time is up,” I nodded slightly and climbed slowly to my feet so as not to meet my fate sitting down, but I couldn’t bring myself to look away from the fire. “You lied to me.” I looked up at Michael in a brief moment of confusion, “about my brother.” I looked away again as my gaze narrowed, this time my gaze returning to Castiel’s body.
“He got your bloody punishment, leave him be,” my tone was bitter, defiant even, though I knew it would make no difference now.
“He died a hero.” I looked up at Michael again, my shock robbing me of any smart remarks as the smallest of sad smiles tugged at the corner of his lips for the briefest of moments. “You on the other hand,” I swallowed as he continued and any trace of a smile vanished from his face, “are a different matter.” He paused briefly and I half expected him to draw his sword, but he didn’t. His actions carried a glimmer of hope, but it was quickly swallowed by a rising sense of dread. “You will walk the earth alone for the rest of eternity, staying at the edges of society and quickly forgotten by the human world. You will continue to hunt the monsters of the three realms, no matter the harm that may come to you.”Michael pressed his hand again to my shoulder, replacing my first seal, but I didn’t notice the burn. I was too busy staring at him before I swallowed and tried to protest; to beg him to kill me or lock me away in that damned box. Whatever madness the Eternity Box could have held for me would have been a welcome escape for me, but before I could get one word in, Michael vanished with only the quiet echo of his feathery wings to mark his passing. I looked back towards Castiel’s body, but it seemed that Michael had taken it with him. So instead, I began to weep. My knees grew weak and buckled, letting me collapse back into the mud and rocks. I started to lose my hold on the waking world as I fell sideways and crashed to the ground. The last thing I remembered was watching as the sun turned blood red and the stars seemed to fall from the sky.
I couldn’t say how long I lay there, except that it was at least three and a half days and it had rained a lot. I could feel the lake water lapping up around my arm when I opened my eyes. I found myself staring at Nate and Jenny Rivers as they leaned over me. I hoped against all hope that none of it had happened; that it had all been in my head. Then Keep licked my hand and I began to teeter on the edge of a breakdown; I was so tired.
“You survived,” I nodded my thanks as Nate pulled me into a sitting position.
“And Castiel?” The name alone was enough to push me back into oblivion as I looked back over at where his body had been. “I’m sorry,” Jenny’s voice was soft as she rested a gentle hand on my back, “I know you cared about him.” I forced myself to give her a weak smile rather than snide remark as I flexed my numb hand and dried it on my bloody shirt.
“I’ve lost track of how many I cared about and then lost,” my voice was quiet. I climbed to my feet and we walked back to the ruins of my home, following the trail of fallen trees Lucifer had left in his wake. Nate and Jenny went inside, righting chairs and collecting my burned books from the rubble, but I couldn’t bring myself to step back through the hole. I left them there and made my way down the trail into London, Keep trailing from shadow to shadow behind me. I paused as I passed Este’s home for a brief moment; her body had been buried in the rubble. I continued on until came within a few blocks of Ena’s house; I couldn’t bring myself to move any closer. I sent Keep ahead and stood in the road, watching the pedestrians as I waited. They continued to give me the same wide berth they always had, like I was feral and their instinct told them not to come near. It was funny how some things would likely never change.
“Arron,” Ena’s voice was soft as she followed Keep up the road, but my words failed me, “you’re alive,” she gave me a sad smile and I returned it briefly. I was simply glad she hadn’t said ‘okay’. She finally broke the silence that followed, “Daniel, he wanted me to apologize for him, he didn’t think you’d want to see him.” I blinked in confusion so she continued, measuring her words carefully, “it’s been four days,” she spoke slowly. I stared at her as her words finally sank in. Four days ago had been the anniversary of my ‘birth’ in Hell. The realization made my head spin and my stomach lurch; it was like it had all been some sick joke.
“I need to leave.” Ena stared at me a moment with a worried expression when I finally found some semblance of my voice. Then she gave a slight nod.
“I’ll see you later, then,” she began but I shook my head, reaching unconsciously for his cross where it still hung around my neck.
“No, Ena, I mean England. I need to leave England.” Now she just stared at me in silence.
“Where will you go?” Her voice was barely above a whisper when she finally spoke, but I just shrugged.
“I don’t know yet, I just know I need to get away from here for a while. I’ll come back eventually,” I watched the tears well in her amber eyes a moment before I wrapped my arms around her in a hug. “I’ll see you again, when you need me, I’ll find you. I always do.” She was crying as I pressed my lips to the top of her head in a silent farewell. I turned and walked away, ignoring the urge to look back over my shoulder.
Nate and Jenny were waiting for me at the front of the ruins of my old home. Jenny paced the trail while Nate sat on the edge of what was left of the step. They watched Keep and I approach as if they were waiting for me to fall over the edge again. The truth of the matter though, was that I had nothing left to lose short of my Hell Hounds.
“When we came to see you, it was to tell you we’re leaving; we’re headed to Ireland on a Dullahan hunting trip with the Church family,” Nate spoke in his usual easy manner, “but after everything, we thought maybe you’d like to accompany us.” I glanced down at Keep, debating a moment in my reply.
“Alright,” I nodded slightly as the numbness finally set in; I needed to get back into a rhythm as quickly as possible, “I’m going to need to find my silver in that mess before I go anywhere, though.” They nodded in understanding and watched as I disappeared into my home for what I thought would be the last time.
I paused outside of his room on my way back out, my hand reaching subconsciously for his cross where it still hung around my neck as I hesitated. I opened the door slowly, wishing that it would still be as he left it. The warmth of an angel’s presence still clung to the room and it sent a chill down my spine. I surveyed the damage and reached down to right a fallen chair before I noticed an old, leather bound book not unlike one of my journals. I hesitated a moment, crouched there and staring at the worn and singed leather cover before finally I picked it up from the wreckage. I brushed the dust and ash from it with light fingers before I opened its pages. In the center of the first yellowing page, in a column, was a list of names.
I ran my fingers over the page, not sure what to make of it. The first three names were old and faded ink while the last three seemed fresh, written in sharp pen. My name was dark in both ‘Hagar’ and ‘Arron’, as if the letters had been traced over and over again with his pen. I closed the book, ignoring my curiosity out of respect for the dead. I slipped it into the same pocket as my journal and turned to climb through the rubble and debris back to the front of my house. Quite miraculously, my coat racks still stood in it’s corner by the front door, my coat still hanging dusty but unharmed. On reflex I grabbed it, shrugging it on on my way out the door. Nate climbed to his feet and Jenny stopped pacing when they saw me.
“Will you be alright?” I forced a rather weak smile at Jenny’s question.
“I’ll be okay,” I lied; what I really meant was “I’ll survive”.
“You find your silver?” Nate asked the important question so I rolled up my sleeves to show him the silver bands around my wrists, though I kept the fact I had never replaced the one I’d broken when we first met. He nodded slightly and I let my sleeves back down as I glanced back at Keep. I knelt in front of him and took his muzzle in my hands as I presses my forehead to his.
“Bear with me for a moment, love, I know it hurts.” I whispered the words before I closed my eyes and began to murmur the Hell’s Latin that would seal away this side of him. I straightened up when I finished, watching as Keep shrank down to the size of a large dog. His horns grew in reverse and the spines along his back lay flat as the black fire in his eyes went out and he shook the frost from his coat. Nate and Jenny said nothing as they watched, and with my final words we made made our way back to the docks in solemn silence.
There was a ship waiting for us with one of the Church family’s hunters waiting on the deck, a man named Richard Church. I stood back as he came to meet Nate and Jenny on the dock and they explained to him their reason for bringing a demon and a Hell Hound along. I spotted Adam Walters a fair ways off and wove my way through the crowds toward him. I couldn’t say for sure what made me want to say goodbye to someone I barely knew; maybe it was because I hadn't really been able to say goodbye to anyone else.
“Adam!” I called out and he looked up from his work loading boxes as I twisted away from the last group of Londoners.
“Arron,” he almost sounded surprised when he saw me, “I saw the smoke coming from the direction of your house, I thought you were dead.” I gave him a brief smile.
“I’m not that easy to kill, apparently.” I let the smile slip, “I wanted to ask you about Este.” He frowned, “Did you like her?” His face flushed ever so slightly and I gave him a grim smile, “then you should know.” I took a deep breath before continuing, “she died in that house,” I could tell my words hurt him so I continued quickly, “she said she liked you though, before she died,” it wasn’t a lie, not entirely; Este had called him sweet, but she’d been too fixated on the angel. “I’m sorry Adam,” he nodded slightly and swallowed before changing the subject.
“Where are you off to?”
“For now, Ireland. After that though,” I shrugged, “maybe I’ll end up in the Americas somewhere one day.” Adam laughed briefly.
“Come find me when you get there,” I matched his laugh and gave him a slight nod.
“I’ll do that.”
“Arron!” Nate called my attention back just in time for me to see his sister elbow him in the ribs. The two of them brought the smallest of smiles to my otherwise solemn expression as I turned back to Adam.
“I’d best be going then,” I offered a hand, “Goodbye, Adam Walters.” He nodded, matching my expression as he shook my hand.
“Goodbye, Arron Masey, and good luck.” With those words, I turned and ran back to join Nate, Jenny, and Keep on the Ireland bound ship with Richard Church. I was going to get back into my rhythm. I was going to return to my place at the edge of society. I would be forgotten and left behind, but I would never be able to outrun everything that had happened.
~136 years later~
It amazes me how quickly humans forget about things like the apocalypse. I suppose it made sense though, considering how short their lives tended to be. It’s taken me a fair amount longer, although I suppose the fact I had gained so much in that short time, only to have it torn away played a rather large role in that.
“Hey,” I glanced over at the man that drew my attention away from the past and the red lights in front of me, “nice car. ‘67 Firebird, right?” I smiled.
“Yeah, your isn’t too bad either,” I studied the Impala a moment.
“I bet it could outrun yours.” I shook my head, “especially with the way most of you people drive.” I grinned at that.
“Careful what you say to people,” I pulled my sunglasses down as my eyes turned black, “you never know what they really might be.” The light changed as I slid the sunglasses back up and my eyes returned to normal. I shot past them down the nearly empty road as the sun began to set behind us. The sky was turning dark in front of me and the cold evening air was refreshing as it blew past. I smiled briefly before I shifted gears and turned the radio up as I sped across North America’s Midwest.